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 Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen

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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sat May 24, 2014 10:15 pm

Beth gave a quiet sigh and shifted in her seat.  Jed turned anxious eyes towards her and touched her arm.

“You alright darlin'?”  he asked her.

“Oh yes,”  she smiled reassuringly.  “I'm just so uncomfortable.  I can't seem to find any position that works.  And it really is getting warm out.”

“We'll be home soon,”  Jed needlessly pointed out.  “Some cool lemonade, while sitting out on the front porch will soon put you to right.”

Beth seemed sceptical.  “I don't know.  I'm sure Bridget never got this big.”

“Oh yes she did,”  Jed told her.  “You're just seein' it from the other side now.”

“Oh, I suppose.”  Beth sighed again as she tried to reposition herself.  Gov flicked an ear back, wondering what all the restlessness was about.  “I sure am glad to be going home though.  I want David to deliver this baby.  That old fuddy duddy in Denver just made me so mad.”

Jed smiled.  “Yeah, but ya gotta admit he had a point,”  he suggested.  “If Bridget was having problems again, you probably didn't need to see that what with our own young'un comin' so soon.”

“Yes, I suppose so,”  Beth conceded.  “but he wouldn't even give Bridget anything for the pain.  I can certainly understand if it's a normal delivery—I mean, I don't want any pain medication either if I don't really need it and I figure that if Mama can do it then so can I!”

“Uh huh.”

“But I know Bridget was in a lot of pain and that old geezer wouldn't give her anything!  Said it was 'unethical'!”  Beth would have stamped her foot if she could have felt it.  “But Abi's friend, Dr. Bentham said there was nothing wrong with it and if men were the one's giving birth they'd have been using it years ago.”

Jed chuckled.  “Yeah, you're probably right about that,”  he agreed.  “If it's anything like havin' a bullet dug outa ya', the more pain killer the better.”

Beth went from angry to sad in less than a second.  “Now of course she's not suppose to have any more children.  She was so upset about that.  She and Steven had hoped for a large family.”

“I know,”  Jed agreed.  He was getting a little better at talking about 'women's issues' but it still wasn't his favourite topic.  Still, he did his best knowing that his wife wanted to talk about it.  “At least they got two healthy girls.  Your folks did alright with that.”

Beth smiled.  “Yes, they did.”  Then she turned quiet and looked around as though she expected a posse to come galloping up to surround them.  Jed smiled at her obvious attempt to be inconspicuous. “But that's not the only thing she was upset about.”

“Oh?”

“No.”  Beth whispered.  “She was upset because....”

“What?”

“Because she didn't know what Dr. Bentham had told me,”  Beth explained.  “about there being things she could use to prevent something happening....”

“Oh,”  Jed nodded understanding.

“I tried to tell her about it after we all got back from Kansas, but she'd hear none of it then,”  Beth explained.  “She was insulted that I would even suggest that she and Steven would not want to have children.  I tried to explain that it was about planning, not preventing but she wouldn't listen.  Typical older sister.”  Beth sighed.  “Then she was just so upset with what the doctor told her, thinking that she and Steven would never be able to...well, you know...marital relations...”

“Yeah yeah, I get the picture,”  Jed mumbled.  “Unfortunately.”

“So then I reminded her of this herb or tea that she can take and all of a sudden her little sister wasn't so stupid after all.”  Beth took some pride in being one up on the older sibling.  “so, I assured her that I would talk to David about it just as soon as I had a moment with him.  I'm sure he'll be obliging since he is already giving it to Maribelle.”

Jed looked concerned.  “Yeah, but...isn't it illegal?”

“Oh so what?”  Beth exclaimed.  “Nobody's going to tell on David for giving us something to help us!  It's such a silly law anyways....”

“Yeah, but in case you've forgotten,”  Jed pointed out.  “Steven is a lawyer.  Sworn to uphold the law etc., etc.  Have you and Bridget thought about what he might have to say about this?”

Beth snorted most unlady like and gave her husband an incredulous look.  “I'm sure that given the choice of never bedding his wife again or turning a blind eye to a minor indiscretion of an archaic law, even Steven would know which was the more sensible.”

Jed hardly needed to think about that before he nodded his agreement.  “Yep, ya' got a point there Darlin'.”

The barking of dogs awoke the couple to the awareness of their destination.  Elly came jumping down off the front porch to come galloping with her vociferous greeting towards the arriving visitors.  Peanut and Pebbles were not far behind her and soon the horse and surrey were surrounded by wagging tails and smiling dog faces.

Somebody new came out of the barn to hold Gov's head and Jed stepped down to walk up to him on his way around to assist his wife.  He smiled a greeting and offered a hand for shaking.

“Howdy,”  he greeted the young man.  “Didn't know we were hiring someone new.  Is Sam alright?”

“Yessir,”  came the tentative response.  “I got hired a month ago.”

“Oh Jed!”  Beth intervened from her position on the surrey.  “Gosh, with everything else going on, I forgot to tell you.  This is Ben Harrison.  You remember the Harrisons'; they have the small ranch over on the other side of Brookswood.  Unfortunately it failed so badly in that terrible winter that Ben here has had to look for work just to keep their place up and running.”

“Oh yeah,”  Suddenly Jed felt a little awkward.  “Sorry about that.  Lot's of places have gone under since then.  At least your folks have been able to keep things going with a bit of help.”

“Yessir,”  came the repeated response.  “I'm just thankful that Mr. Jordan was willin' ta' hire me on.”

“Uh huh,”  Jed agreed as he approached his waiting wife and helped her as best he could to disembark the conveyance.  “Do your job right and he's a good man to work for.”

“Yessir, I know sir.”  And with that Ben led Gov towards the double wide doors to the barn so he could be unharnessed and finally turned out with his buddies.

“Beth, Thaddeus!”  Belle greeted them from the front porch and then came forward to help. “I was wondering when you were going to show up.  I expected you a couple of hours ago.”

“Sorry Mama,”  Beth said breathlessly as she found her footing.  “I guess we got busy visiting with Randa and Hannibal.  Lost track of time.”

“Well that's alright,”  Belle smiled and gave her daughter a kiss.  “There's cool lemonade and some sandwiches.  We can have a light lunch on the porch if you like.”

“Oh that would be wonderful Mama,”  Beth sighed in delight, then frustration.  “If I can just get myself over there.”

Belle stepped forward and took her daughter's arm in hers and the two ladies led the way to the porch.  Jed followed along and could hear Beth filling her mother in on the good news.

“....and Hannibal has his pardon now.  The governor has granted it to him....”

“Really?”  Belle asked and sent an enquiring look back to Jed.

Jed smiled and nodded.  Belle's face broke into a beaming smile and Jed already knew where the lunch conversation was going to be headed.


“So did Sam leave?”  Jed asked after swallowing a mouthful of sandwich.

“No, no,”  Belle assured him.  “He and Jesse are up by the line cabin checking out the new crop of calves and foals.  I'm expecting them back tomorrow.”

“Ohh,”  Jed groaned guiltily.  “I should have been doing that.”

Belle smiled.  “Well you could hardly have been in two places as once, Thaddeus.  Jesse hired you and Joshua to do something else.”

“I know,”  Jed nodded.  “but we expected to be back a lot sooner than this.  Is that why Jesse hired Ben?  To fill in for me?”

“No!”  Belle assured him.  “More to fill in for Sam.  Sam has come a long way and Jesse is giving him more and more responsibilities.  I suppose it would be safe to say that Sam is our foreman now.  He knows the ranch almost as well as Jesse does so it was time.  Ben was hired to take over the duties at the barns and he's staying in the bunkhouse so he'll always be here.”

Jed still looked a little uncomfortable, feeling he had let Jesse down by not being around more.  Beth picked up on his concern and gave him a teasing little slap on the arm.

“Oh Jed, it has nothing to do with you,”  she assured him.  “Papa knows that neither you or Hannibal are cut out for ranching.  He never expected you to stay on here more than part time—if at all.  Besides, you and Hannibal have your own business now and from what I can tell, it's doing quite well.”

“And you only live a couple of miles away,”  Belle pointed out.  “If Jesse needs you, you can bet he'll let you know.  Spring and Fall are our busiest times so, get ready.”  Belle laughed.  “Between one thing and another I have a feeling you're going to be kept very busy!”

“I suppose you're right about that,”  Jed agreed.  “Heyes said that five more jobs came in while we were away.  Nothing huge but enough to keep things moving ahead.”

“That's wonderful,”  Beth told him.  “Miranda never said anything about that.”

Jed shrugged.  “I suppose she didn't want to bore you with business.”

“Bore me with business?”  Beth was incredulous.  “Doesn't she know that I run the business end of this ranch?”

“You've got enough on your plate, young lady,”  Belle reminded her.  “Doing the books for this place and raising your own family is going to be plenty enough for you to do.  You let Joshua run his own business.”

“But it's Jed's business too,”  Beth pointed out.  “He and Hannibal are partners!”

Jed started to laugh, Beth looked a little incensed while Belle simply looked amused.

“Aww, Beth darlin',”  Jed teased her,  “you just can't sit still can ya'?  Heyes will let ya' know if he needs your help but he has a pretty good head for numbers too remember.  And like your ma says; you're gonna be busy enough here pretty soon.”

Then to emphasize the point, Beth suddenly jumped, nearly spilling her lemonade as the infant inside her let loose a healthy kick.

“Oh my!”  she declared.  “Oh!  There it goes again!”

“See!”  Belle laughed.  “Already demanding attention.”


The next day, Beth was all done in from her journey from Denver so she stayed home to rest and keep her mother company.  J.J. was around somewhere but on these hot summer days he was generally not to be found.  As is the normal process, Belle got over her fear of her son's near demise a couple of years ago and on top of that, the boy was getting to an age where he simply would not be contained.  Once his morning chores were done he was often off to his favourite fishing hole or getting together with boys from neighbouring ranches and farms to go 'hunting' and wouldn't be back home again until supper time.

Leaving the ladies to have the day to themselves, Jed saddled up Gov and rode out to his own place.  He dismounted and tied Gov to the railing by the front porch where the horse could stand in the shade and relax for a while.  Then walking over to the well, Jed drew half a bucket of water and carried it over to the side of the house where a small peach tree sapling was planted and taking root.

He carefully splattered water around the base of the narrow trunk and then stood back and scrutinized the little tree.  He stepped up to it and with a small smile caressed the new green growth that had put in an appearance since his last visit.  There were some new leaves too.  It would be a couple of years before the tree started producing any fruit but that was alright.  This was a special tree and seeing it embracing life and growing into something beautiful was all that Jed would ever ask of it.

He returned the bucket to the well and turned to inspect the house.  He was pleased with it.  It was nothing special but it had been designed to be a 'starter' home with plenty of room for additions as a growing family might require them.  But for now, it suited the small Curry clan quite nicely.  He walked up the steps and entered through the front door and smiled at the new additions since his last visit.  Beth had been busy.

Many of the wedding gifts were in attendance, lovingly placed in positions of honour on the mantle piece or side tables.  Delicate linens, doilies and table cloths covered various pieces of furniture giving the place a very feminine feel to it.  That was just fine with Jed.  He'd spent enough time living in bunkhouses surrounded by other men so to have a woman's touch made this place really feel like home.

Beth, and obviously with her mother's help, had done a good job of turning this newly built cabin into a comfortable home and Jed was looking forward to moving in permanently.  It was all very fine to stay at the ranch house until the baby was born, but he and Beth were a married couple now with their own pending family to adjust to.  They needed their own place.  It wasn't like they were moving out to the middle of nowhere; Belle wouldn't be that far away and even a trip into town when the weather was nice wouldn't be too daunting an undertaking.  Not for a rancher's daughter.

Yes, he and Beth would be happy here.  Life was changing finally, and for the better.  A wife, a family, and a permanent home.  His partner was a free man, his debt to Wyoming paid and now his life too was embracing the changes that marriage and family will bring to it.  They had a good business starting and it seemed to be thriving enough to keep both of them busy and well healed and that felt good.  Not having to depend on Jesse anymore for his livelihood meant a lot and he was going to make sure he would give Beth the best life that he possibly could.

A small smile of remembrance crossed over his features as he walked around the living area of the cabin.  Beth had photographs up on the walls from all three of their weddings.  Bridget and Steven's portrait was there along with a group shot with all the family members.  Then almost a repeat of the same shots with Beth and Jed's ceremony.  With the photo's being in black and white it was hard to see the differences in the colour choices of the flowers but there were still other subtle things that made each day individual for the participants.  The most obvious difference, at least to Jed was the fact that Heyes was missing from the family group in the first wedding, yet very much apparent in the second.  That'll be a story to tell the kids as they grow up; 'How come Uncle Han isn't in this wedding picture, but he's in that one?  Doesn't he like Aunt Bridget?'  Jed gave a slight laugh as he considered the explanation.

Then the smile turned into a grin as he viewed the photo's from the Heyes' winter wedding.  Just as much as the two previous nuptials looked so much alike,  the third one was as far from similar as opposites could be.  He had been fortunate with the weather over that Christmas or it may have been him and Miranda standing in the church alone.  But as it turned out most of the invited guests had made it and the whole event had turned into quite a ceremony.  'Trust Heyes!'  Jed mused; he always had to do things differently.  It's not that he intended it that way, he just did.  He always stood out from the crowd.

A slight frown of worry briefly marred the grin as Jed thought about Heyes' health issues.  Prison had left it's mark on his partner, inside and out.  Again, he found himself hoping that these issues wouldn't  become worse and more debilitating as time went on.  David was a good doctor and Jed knew he was doing everything he could to keep both of them up and running but even David couldn't heal everything.  He grinned again as he thought of his good friend the medical man.  Jed's and Heyes' lives weren't the only ones to be changed drastically by their arrival at the Jordan ranch so many years ago.  David had received a whole new education on outlaws and how to live with them.  He'd come west looking for a more challenging career and he had certainly found it.

Jed took his time and made the tour of the whole house just to satisfy himself that everything was in order.  He really hadn't had any doubts, he knew Beth would have been on top of things out here.  But he'd just wanted to see it for himself.  Everything was all ready and waiting for them to move in.  The main bedroom was fully furnished and nicely decorated with more family items most likely given by Belle, and more pictures of their wedding day.  There was also a bassinet position at the foot of the bed, all in preparation of the pending arrival.  

Next to the main bedroom, the smaller nursery was organized and adorned with appropriate 'baby things' including a number of items that Jed himself would never have thought of.  He ran his hand along the blanket that was in the crib and smiled at the plush softness of it and thought that he wouldn't mind laying his head down on that himself.  There were also soft toys in attendance and little drawings on the walls and of course children's books all neatly stacked in a small bookcase.  Obviously the child wouldn't be reading for a few years to come, but reading bedtime stories was tradition in the Jordan family and even Jed could vaguely remember his ma indulging in this same ritual in those happy early years.  Yes, reading bedtime stories would definitely be carried on, just as much for the parent's enjoyment as for the child's.

Leaving the nursery, Jed made his way into the large common room and into the kitchen area.  Again it was well stocked with everything a new home would need, including canned and dry goods stacked on shelves in the pantry.  'Yep,'  Jed smiled to himself.  'It's home alright.  The food's here.'  Belle hadn't missed a beat in getting her daughter set up in her own home and the kitchen looked just as comfortable and inviting as the other rooms had been.   It was a nice home and Jed found himself feeling a stirring of excitement at the prospect of settling in here with his family and building something his parents would have been proud of.

Once back outside, he turned Gov's head towards the hills and a day of quiet solitude.  It'd been ages since he'd had any time to himself and he knew that things were going to get crazy here pretty soon.  He felt confident that Beth was enjoying the day with her mother and so didn't feel guilty about taking this time for a bit of a breather.  Life was pretty good right now and he needed to take this day to appreciate it.


By the time Jed and Gov were trotting back into the ranch yard it was obvious that Sam and Jesse were back from their rounds.  Sam's horse was still saddled and standing patiently where he was tied by the front porch and Jed pulled Gov up by the barn where Ben was busy giving Spike a sponge bath.  It had been a hot day and everybody was feeling the need for water.

The new hire glanced up at Jed just as he was dismounting.

“You can tie your gelding there if you want, Mr. Curry,”  Ben told him.  “I'll get to him as soon as I'm done with this paint.”

“That's alright,”  Jed told him.  “I like to tend to my own horse when I can.  And you can call me 'Jed'.  I hear someone calling me 'Curry' and I'm lookin' around for a badge.”

Ben actually smiled, starting to feel a little more comfortable with the infamous ex-outlaw.

Jed grabbed a halter and striping the tack off his sweaty horse, he put it all in its appropriate places in the barn and then got another bucket of water out of the trough to give his own horse a scrubbing down.

“I don't really know your folks too well,”  Jed made conversation.  “How many of ya' are there?”

“Aw well, there are quite a few of us,”  Ben admitted.  “My pa don't really need more than my older brother to help out at the place—it just ain't that big no more.”

“Yeah,”  Jed agreed quietly.  “that winter was hard on a lot of folks.”

“If it wasn't for Mr. Jordan helpin' out with feed I don't think we'd a made it at all,”  Ben continued.  “We're hopin' to keep it runnin', but it never was a big place, not like the Double J.  I always kinda figured I'd be lookin' for work elsewhere.  I'm the youngest, ya' see—of the boys that is.  The oldest, well, he's getting the ranch.  The other two above me have already left to work in Denver, they'd had enough of ranchin'.  But I like it, so I looked for work around here.”

“I suppose that's natural,”  Jed commented.  “that everybody moves on.  Your folks got anyone left at home now, aside from your older brother?”

“Yeah,”  Ben responded.  “I got two younger sisters who ain't of age yet, but my older sister, she got married and moved to San Francisco.”

“Everybody's spreadin' out.”

“Yep.”

“Well, family's important,”  Jed commented, feeling all domesticated after his visit to the new house.  “Sometimes ya' don't realize it until everyone's gone—then ya' miss it.  Hopefully some of you will be sticking around these parts with your folks.”

“Yeah I suppose,”  Ben shrugged, not really understanding the significance.  “I wouldn't be surprised if my sisters marry local—maybe me too.”

“Oh yeah?”  Jed asked him.  “You got a particular young lady in mind?”

Ben practically blushed and busied himself with scraping the excess water off the pinto hide, but he still smiled and shrugged self-consciously.  

“Yeah, I guess,”  he admitted.  “I just ain't sure if she feels the same way.”

“Uh huh,”  Jed agreed,  “they do keep ya' guessin' sometimes.  Although personally I didn't have that problem.  Beth ain't never been shy.  She let me know long before I was even thinkin' it that I was gonna be marryin' her.”

Ben chuckled despite his shyness of this discussion.  “Yeah, I kinda' noticed she don't hold back.”

Jed laughed.  “Yup!”

“Oh Thaddeus!”  came Belle's voice from the front porch.  “Good, you're back.  Supper will be ready in about half an hour.”

Jed turned and sent her a wave just as Sam came out the front door and down the front steps.  He untied his mare and leading her behind him, he walked over to join the two men over at the barn.

“Not staying for supper, Sam?”  Jed asked him.

“Oh no,”  Sam declined.  “Although it does smell awfully good in there.  But no, Maribelle is waitin' on me.  And ya' know, she's a pretty darn good cook too, epically with my ma there sharing all her 'old country' recipes.  Still, Mrs Jordan sure does know how to put on a spread.  You're gonna really like the perks of workin' here Ben.”

Ben looked embarrassed.  “Yeah.  I sure didn't expect them to be feedin' me as well as payin' me a wage.”

Sam and Jed exchanged looks and smiled.

“Well, I best be gettin' on home,”  the new foreman announced as he mounted up.  “Those young'uns of ours are growin' up so fast, there'll be nothin' left of supper if I don't get home on time.”  He settled into the saddle and smiled at Jed.  “We got some real nice foals up there this year and Ned has settled in quite nicely with his own band of mares.  If things go as planned, the crop should be even better next year.”

“Good,”  Jed agreed.  “I'm lookin' forward to that.”

“Ain't we all!”  Sam agreed.  “See ya' in the morning.”  He turned the mare's head towards home and she quite willingly picked up the canter and made a bee line to her own barn and supper.


Half an hour later J.J. showed up just in time to get a quick washing up and join everyone else around the supper table.  Thick slices of roast beef were passed around quickly followed by rich gravy and Yorkshire pudding.

“Oh yes!”  Jed grinned as the big platter of baked puddings came his way.  “Are we celebratin' somethin'?”

“Of course,”  Belle informed him as she handed down the carrots and broccoli.  “Your homecoming.”

“Oh,”  Jed almost seemed disappointed.  “Heyes and Miranda should be here too then—and Joe.  Joe did a lot to help this whole venture be successful.”

“Don't worry about that,”  Jesse assured him.  “We're planning on having you all out here for a real gathering once the baby arrives and Beth is up to it.  This is just a private dinner to welcome you and Beth back home.”

Jed smiled, content with that.  The puddings had made the rounds and ended up with Ben.  Jed noticed that the young man's eyes had grown large as saucers as he hesitated with his fork in spearing one of tasty pastries.  He'd never seen such a thing before and was trying unsuccessfully to inconspicuously view what everyone else was doing with them.

“Just take one Ben,”  Jed told him.  “Break it open and pour gravy on it.  I never had Yorkshire pudding before I came here but now I'll fight two men and a boy if they say that Belle don't make the best Yorkshire around.”

Belle laughed.  “Now how can you say that if you'd never had it before?”

“Experience,”  Jed stated simply as he added more gravy and hot mustard to his plate.

Ben was still not sure what he should do and glanced over at J.J. who was busy stuffing a large piece of baked pudding and dripping gravy into his mouth.

“Oh Jay!”  Beth rolled her eyes.  “You still insist on making a mess at the supper table, don't you!”

J.J. grinned over at her but was too busy chewing his mouthful to answer.

Ben, having now viewed what everyone else was doing, tackled the new challenge with gusto and his first dripping mouthful again caused his eyes to widen, only this time in surprised delight.

“Wow!”  he finally got out after he'd swallowed.  “This is really good.”

“Yep,”  Jed agreed.

“I thought my ma was a good cook, but you're amazing, Mrs. Jordan.”

Belle almost blushed but smiled too.  “Thank you.  But don't you go telling your mother that or she'll never speak to me again.”

“No ma'am.”

“Sam tells me that Ned is proving to be quite successful as a range stallion,”  Jed commented as the supper moved along.  “You're hopin' for good things next year.”

“Yes,”  Jesse agreed.  “He's really coming into his own this summer.  Just like his ma; I think he knows he's something special.”  Jed rolled his eyes.  “Now with the success of your endeavours, we should have him papered by next spring and our new breeding program will be up and running.  We've been busy this year, but next year could be really moving.  That's why I decided to start hiring some more hands again.  I'm going to be needing more than just Sam and Deke around here.”

“Oh yeah,”  Jed mumbled.  “Sorry about that Jesse.  I feel like I kinda' walked out and left ya' hanging.”

“Hardly!”  Jesse told him as helped himself to another slice of beef.  “What you and Hannibal accomplished this summer is invaluable—and well worth what I paid you to do it.  I never would have thought that horses would be the saving grace of this ranch.  When we bought it, beef was the only way to go but that winter of  '87 changed all that.  That knocked the stuffing out of the cattle ranches and the market just never recovered, as young Mr. Harrison here knows.  Personally I don't think it's ever going to be what it once was, those days are over.
“Again, thank goodness I allow myself to eventually be manipulated by my daughters!  It was their love of horses and they're constant pressuring to start breeding them as a side-line that just might be the ticket to keeping this ranch in the black.”

“Oh Papa!”  Beth admonished her father light-heartedly.  “We didn't have to push very hard to get you to do it!”

Both Jesse and Belle laughed at that statement.

“Funny,”  Belle commented.  “that's not how I remember it.”

“No, me neither,”  Jesse collaborated  and smiled over at his daughter.

“We weren't that bad,”  Beth insisted again, but she smiled sheepishly, knowing that her folks had a good point.

Jed laughed out loud, being well able to imagine the negotiations.  He leaned over and gave his wife a kiss on the cheek.

“That's why I love you darlin',”  he told her.  “I still shudder to think what would have happened if you and Bridget weren't so stubborn!”

“I think you mean tenacious.”

“Nope,”  Jed shook his head.  “Stubborn.”


Beth smiled with the teasing while Ben simply looked confused.  He was still feeling very much out of place in this family gathering.

“Oh, that reminds me,”  Belle spoke up.  “Apparently you're not the only one who felt the boys did a good job on this venture,”  she told her husband.  “It seems that Governor Barber was also impressed.”

“Oh?”  Jesse asked.  “Has he lightened up on some of those conditions for Hannibal?”

Belle looked over at Jed.  “Thaddeus?”

“What?  Oh!”  Jed realized she was expecting him to announce the good news.  “Ah, he actually did better than that.  He's given Heyes a pardon.  He's not on parole anymore.”

Jesse's face broke into a huge smile.  “That is great news!  Well now we do have a lot to celebrate, don't we?”

“That was awfully quick,”  Ben commented before thinking.

Everyone looked over at him and he realized he'd said the wrong thing.

“Not if you're the one livin' it,”  Jed told him quietly.

“No, of course not.”  Ben back stepped.  “Sorry.  I didn't mean nothin'....sorry.”

“That's alright,”  Belle assured him with a pat on his hand.  “I'm sure to an outsider it does seem quick.  But it was a very difficult time for this family and especially for Thaddeus and Joshua.  I'm so pleased that after all he's been through, Joshua is finally getting some good things happening....”

Suddenly Beth groaned and pressed her hand against her tummy.  Everyone looked to her with some alarm.

“You alright darlin'?”  Jed asked her as he squeezed her other hand.

“Yes, I think so,”  she said tenuously.  “Just a bit of a cramp.”

“You really didn't eat very much,”  her mother noticed.  “are you feeling alright?”

“Actually, I'm not really,”  Beth admitted.  “I'm sorry.  I know this is suppose to be a special supper but I think I'm just going to lay down for a while.”

Jed was instantly on his feet.  “I'll help you.”

Beth smiled at her husband.  “Alright.”

“I'll go put some tea on,”  Belle announced as she also stood up.  “Actually a cup of tea might be nice for all of us.”

“Can I go out and play, mama?”  J.J. asked, totally unconcerned with the little drama around the table.

Belle looked at him with a slight frown.  “Don't you want any dessert?”

J.J. hesitated.  “What is it?”  he finally enquired.

“Apple pie.”

“Is there any ice creme?”

“No, but we have some nice sharp cheese to go with it.”

J.J. made a face.  “No thank you.  Can I please go outside and play?”

Belle sighed.  “Alright.”  J.J. was gone with a quick scrape of the chair and out the door in a flash.  Belle looked at the two remaining diners.  “Does anyone else want pie?”

Jed was half way across the common room as he helped Beth to the guest bedroom under the stairs but he had no problem hearing that enquiry.

“Sounds great to me!”  he chirped in.  “Apple pie and sharp cheese.  Somethin' else I'd never had before I came here.”

“I'd love some pie Belle,”  Jesse seconded.  “How about you young man?  Willing to give it a try?”

“Yessir,”  Ben accepted.  “Never thought of puttin' cheese with pie before.”

Belle smiled.  “I think you'll like it.”


Later that evening, Ben had long since retired to the bunkhouse, feeling fuller than he had in a long time.  One thing about living on a ranch, even one that was struggling; there was usually enough to eat, but Ben had been introduced to a couple of new delicacies this evening so he had tended to eat more than his norm.  His thoughts as he settled into his new accommodations generally focused around how to introduce his ma to Yorkshire pudding without insulting her sensibilities.

After an hour or so, Beth did get up and have some tea with the family, but really didn't feel like having any dessert.  She insisted that she was feeling better, just not hungry and was quite capable of helping her mother to clean up the supper dishes.

Belle and Jesse exchanged a quiet smile but didn't say anything, or deter her from helping out as much as she felt she could.  It might just be a touch of indigestion.  No reason to get the expectant couple all stressed out over something that might very well be nothing at all.

But by 1:00 am the following morning, the nothing did turn into something after all.  Jed was awakened by his wife's restlessness and the groan she let out was more than just indigestion.  He rolled over to touch her arm and felt that her nightie and the sheet on her side were wet.  His first emotion was fear as memories of the last time flooded back to him and he sat bolt upright in anticipation of another catastrophe.

“Beth, darlin'!  What's wrong?'

“I don't think anything's 'wrong',”  Beth answered him in a strained voice.  “but you better get Mama.”

“Oh!”  Jed was out of bed in an instant and turned up the lamp on the night stand.  He came back to his wife and took her hand and caressed her face.  “Are you sure you're alright?  You're all wet.”

“I know,”  Beth agreed.  “but Mama said that's suppose to happen.  It just means the baby is on it's way.”

“Oh.”  Then Jed nodded.  “Oh right.  I knew that.  The baby's on it's way?”

“I think so.”

“Oh.”

“I don't think it's going to put in an appearance this instant Jed,”  Beth teased him slightly.  “You have time to go get Mama.  And Papa should probably head into town to get David.”

“Oh!”  Jed woke up.  “Yeah, right.”  He grabbed his trousers and quickly pulled them on.  “I'll be right back.”

Beth smiled and nodded while Jed made a hasty exit.

xxxx

Heyes was in the dark cell again.  He sat there, leaning against the wall surrounded by blackness and he let loose a heavy sigh.  He knew this was just another dream of this horrid place and he wished he could stop having them but even though they had lessened in frequency and intensity they still insisted on persisting.

He'd stopped having dreams about Doc and though he still missed his friend very much he was glad to have finally put that ghost to rest.  The one brief visit from him recently had been a gentle respite compared to the crippling nightmares his visit used to be.  But these damn dreams of being in the dark cell, or being hung from the ceiling, though not terrifying anymore, were still disturbing.

He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.  'Well,'  he thought to himself,  'this is just a dream so that means I can take control of it if I choose to.  Therefore,'  and he opened his eyes to glare in the direction of the unseen door,  'I choose to end this dream.  I want the door to this cell to unlock and open and when I walk out, I won't be in the prison but laying peacefully in bed beside my wife.'

Much to his surprise there instantly sounded a knocking on the outside of the door.  This confused him and caused some consternation.  'Why are they knocking?  I'm locked in here; if they want the door to open they're the ones who will have to do it.'  But the knocking persisted and Heyes was starting to get irritated.  Whoever it was out there was just taunting him.  Probably Carson—that fxxxing pxxxk!  Oh but wait; Carson's dead.  Still, it could be him.  So who was out there, playing this little game with him?

Then he had an idea.  'Come in!'  he yelled and waited to see if that had any effect.  Much to his relief he heard the locks being shifted and then the squeaking of the hinges as the cell door opened, letting in a sliver of light.  Heyes blinked as his eyes adjusted and he struggled to see who was there.  Then somebody was shaking him and the dream disappeared as he drifted up into consciousness.

“Hannibal, wake up.”  Miranda's voice broke through his sleep.

“Hmmm—what?”

“Wake up.  There's someone knocking at the door.”

“Oh.”  Heyes forced his eyes open then shut them again as the light from the lamp shot into them.  Then it came again; that persistent knocking on the front door.  “Alright.  I'll go see....”

He groaned to himself, trying to wake up as he rubbed his eyes and let loose a huge yawn.  He pulled on his trousers and taking the lamp with him he stumbled out through the kitchen and to the front door.

“Who's there?”

“It's me, Jesse.”

Heyes felt his heart give a leap and instantly he was wide awake.  He quickly opened the door and stared out into the night.  Sure enough Jesse was standing on the porch, and Heyes could just make out the painted body of Spike tied up outside their fence.

“Jesse,”  Heyes greeted him.

“Sorry to wake you,”  Jesse stated quietly,  “but you said you wanted to know and it wouldn't matter what time it was.”

“Yeah, yeah I did.”  Heyes confirmed.  “Come in while I get dressed.”

Jesse stepped into the alcove just as Miranda came out of the bedroom in her housecoat.

“I take it it's time?”  she asked as she lit another lamp.

“Yes,”  Jesse told her.  “David's already on his way out there with the mid-wife.  Eric was up getting Clay harnessed  for him, so I had him get Karma saddled as well.”

“Oh yeah, thanks,”  Heyes responded as he headed for the bedroom.  “I'll just be a minute.”

Heyes dressed and completed an abbreviated morning toiletry then came up and gave his sleepy wife a kiss on the cheek.

“Are you going to come out later?”  he asked her.

“Yes I will,”  she promised.  “As soon as it's light and we've had some breakfast, we'll come out.”

“Okay, see you later.”

“Sorry to have awakened you Miranda,”  Jesse told her.  “I hope you can get back to sleep for a few more hours.”

Miranda smiled.  “That's alright Jesse.  We can't choose the timing on these things.  You two be careful riding back out there in the dark—don't go breaking your necks.  I'm sure Beth isn't going to give birth this instant.”

Heyes hugged his wife and kissed her on the cheek again.  “Yes mother,”  he teased her.  

She smiled and patted him on the chest.  “Just be careful.”

“We will,”  Jesse assured her.  “I've been through this enough times to know that it'll be a while yet.  We'll see you later.”

The two men headed out the front door and Miranda closed it behind them.  She leaned against it for a moment and let go a large sigh  She hoped everything would go well for Beth this time, not only for Beth and Jed's sake, but for her own as well.  Being pregnant now herself the arrival of a new baby all of a sudden held a lot more interest for her.

She pushed herself off the door, turned off the kitchen lamp, then took the bedroom lamp back in with her and hoped she would be able to get some more sleep.

xxx

By the time Heyes and Jesse arrived back at the Double J there was just a hint of morning light coming from the eastern sky.  Trotting down the lane towards the yard, they could hear nickering coming from the darkness to their right as the resident herd come over to greet the newcomers.  Karma raised her head and began to prance a little as she recognized her daughter's scent and then they could just make out the light coloured filly as she came up to the fence to greet them.  With a little bit more straining, the darker Monty could also but just barely be made out as he stood behind her.  Buck and Gov were also in attendance and nickered their greetings to old friends.

Heyes gave Karma a pat on her arched neck as she jigged and blew out a greeting to her herd.  “Easy my lady,”  he soothed her.  “I expect you'll have the whole day to visit and catch up on the gossip.”

“Very likely,”  Jesse sagely agreed as the two men continued on towards the barn.

Light was shining from the open barn door and a welcoming nicker sounded from within as the two men pulled up in front of the structure.  David's surrey was parked there, minus a horse so Heyes deduced that the nicker from inside the barn was coming from Clay.  It was a wise move on Ben's part to not put the new gelding out with an already established herd.  Squealing and kicking horses trying to establish a new pecking order was all the humans needed to add to the excitement of this coming day.

Ben himself put in an appearance at the barn entrance just as the newcomers were dismounting.  They handed their reins over to him and Heyes offered his hand for shaking.

“Howdy,”  he greeted the young man.  “You're Ben, I take it.”

“Yessir,”  Ben answered, suddenly in awe all over again.

“Jesse here told me he'd hired a new hand,”  Heyes explained.  “welcome to the family.  I'm Hannibal Heyes and this here is Karma.”

Ben's eyes sparkled in the lamplight as he looked from one larger than life figure to the other.  He almost absently shook Heyes' hand.

“Oh, I sure have heard a lot about you Mr. Heyes—and you're horse,”  Ben told him.  “She sure is pretty, even in the dark.”

“Yeah, and she knows it too,”  Heyes grinned.  “And call me 'Heyes'.  You add a mister to that and I start looking a round for the governor.”

“Yessir.”

“You can put Spike back out with the group,”  Jesse broke in on this meeting. “Leave Karma in here with the Doc's horse for now.  They kind of know each other so it should be fine.  Once it's light out I guess Karma can go out with the main herd and this fellow can go out in our smaller pasture out back.”  He turned to Heyes.  “Does he know any of the horses that might be coming out here later?”

“Yeah, he should know Percy by now,”  Heyes reasoned.  “and if Sally is going to ride here, and I have a funny feeling she will be, the little mare I gave her knows Clay pretty well.  Those three should be fine out together.”

Jesse nodded.  “There you go Ben.  Just throw them some hay for now and then you can probably get some more shuteye before the next wave of visitors show up.  I don't think we'll be needing you again for a few hours.”

“Yessir,”  Ben thankfully agreed and clucking to the two horses he led them into the barn.


Last edited by Keays on Sat May 24, 2014 11:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sat May 24, 2014 10:16 pm

Heyes and Jesse headed towards the light that was shining on the front porch and nearly tripped over the three dogs as they sleepily trotted down the steps to greet the new arrivals.  Even they knew that something was up and were staying quiet but that didn't mean they still didn't have a job to do.  Heyes chuckled and gave Ellie a pat on the head as the two men came up the steps and into the house.

Coffee was on the go and Jed had already poured out three cups in anticipation of his friend's arrival.

“How ya' holdin' up Kid?”  Heyes asked his beleaguered partner as they all sat down at the table to indulge in some caffeine.

Jed rolled his eyes and sighed.  “I donno,”  he admitted with an anxious glance towards the bedroom door.  “David got here about twenty minutes ago and kicked me out.”

“No place for the father in the birthing room?”  Heyes teased.

“I donno,”  Jed shrugged.  “He just said he had to examine her and he'd let me know when I could come back in again.  Geesh—it's not like I've never seen....ahh, never mind.”

Jesse smiled but Heyes outright chuckled at his cousin's near indiscretion.

“So, you think you can handle being in there through all of this?”  Heyes asked him.

“Well, yeah I guess,”  Jed surmised.  “but most times the docs don't let the husbands stay.  We get kicked out to the waiting room to twiddle our thumbs.”

“I wouldn't worry about that,”  Jesse assured him.  “David tends to be a bit more lenient about things like that.  I was there for J.J.'s birth and I'll never forget it.  Made me wish I'd been there for the girls, but that doctor didn't approve of the father's being present.  Not in a civilized household in any case.”  He rolled his eyes and smiled.  “Sometimes being uncivilized is a lot more interesting.”

Jed was up and pacing, taking his coffee cup with him.  Jesse and Heyes exchanged smiles.

“Why can't he just let me know what's going on?”  Jed complained.  “It's awfully quiet in there.  Is it suppose to be quiet?  I thought there would be more going on than this.  Should I knock on the door?  Maybe something's wrong and they just don't want to tell me.”  Jed's eyes darted to the bedroom door as it opened and the doctor stepped out, closing the door again behind him.  “David!  What's going on?  Is she okay?  Can I go in now?”

“Oh, is that coffee?”  David asked as he came over to the table.  “I sure could use some.”

“Sure,”  Heyes confirmed.  “I'll get you a cup.”

“David!”  Jed repeated.  “What's going on?”

“Just relax Jed,”  David told him.  “everything's fine.”

“Oh.  So I can go in?”

“In a minute,”  David tried to settle him.  “Nancy and Belle are just getting her cleaned up and settled in.  Once that's done you can go in.”

“Oh, okay.  Will that take long?  She's alright though, right?”

“Here David,”  Heyes handed the doctor a mug of coffee and David gratefully took it.

“Oh, thank you,”  He smiled and sat down with a deep sigh.  “These midnight runs are always a bit stressful.  Nothing like coffee to settle the nerves.”

“You're nervous?”  Jed asked.  “Why are you nervous?”

David smiled at Jed's 'new father' jitters.  “Everything is find Jed.  Save your energy for later—that's when you'll be needing it.”

Jed was about to respond to that comment when the bedroom door opened again and Nancy, the mid-wife came out to join the group around the table.

“Everything's back to order,”  she announced with a smile and put a hand on Jed's arm.  “You can go back in now if you like.”

“Oh yeah!”  Jed headed for the bedroom door, then stopped as he realized he was still holding the coffee cup.  He spun around and brought the cup back to the table, then hesitated again as he met his partner's warm brown eyes.  “Ah, you wanna come in Heyes?”

“No,”  Heyes answered bluntly and then smiled.  “I'll come in to see her in a few minutes.  But you go on ahead.  I think Beth would like to just see you for now.”

“Oh, yeah okay.”  Jed turned towards the door again, hesitated for an instant and looked back to Heyes.

Heyes sent him a dimpled smile.  Jed returned it, nodded and then made a bee line for the door.

Heyes let loose a relieved sigh as soon as his cousin disappeared.  “Jeez David; am I going to behave like that when it's Miranda's time?”

David just smiled and sipped his coffee.

Xxxx

Jed quietly slipped into the room and closed the door behind him.  Belle was sitting beside the bed and holding her daughter's hand but as soon as they heard the door close, Beth locked eyes with her husband and beckoned him over.

“Hi Beth darlin',”  he smiled at her as he sat down opposite Belle and took up Beth's other hand.  “How are you doin'?”

Beth sighed but smiled back at him.  “I'm fine.  Just so much hubbub.”

“I'll leave you two alone for now,”  Belle said as she stood up.  “Beth is having cramps Jed, but don't worry about it.  They're suppose to happen.”

“Oh yeah,”  Jed looked a little nervous at the prospect of being left alone at this point.  “Everything's okay?”

Belle smiled and put a gentle hand on his shoulder.  “Everything's fine,”  she assured him.  “It'll be a little while yet.”

Belle discreetly left the room and Jed and Beth hardly noticed her leave.  Jed held her hand close to him and leaned in to give her a kiss on the forehead.

“You sure you're alright?”  he asked her.  “You feelin' okay?”

“Yes,”  she assured him again.  “The cramps are uncomfortable, but not too bad.  I'm a little nervous, but I'm so excited.”

“Yeah, me too,”  Jed agreed.  “Aw Beth darlin', it's actually happening!  We're havin' a young'un!”

Beth giggled in her excitement.  “Isn't it wonderful?  I can hardly wait!”  then she frowned and her free hand went to her large belly.  “Ohhh...”

“What?”  Jed was instantly anxious.  

“It's just another cramp,”  Beth assured him.  “They do seem to be getting stronger but they're still not too bad.  David said he would give me painkillers whenever I feel I'll need them, but I think I'll be fine.    OH!  That was a good one.”

“Oww,”  Jed complained.

Beth chuckled.  “What are you complaining about?  You're not getting cramps.”

“You're crushing my hand,”  Jed told her.

“Oh, sorry.”  Beth chuckled self-consciously.  “I didn't even realize.  Maybe you better let me hold on to your left one.”

“Uh huh.”

A quiet knock sounded on the door and both sets of eyes turned towards it.

“Yes?”  Beth responded.

“Can I come in?”  came the baritone from the other side.

Beth smiled.  “Hannibal!  Yes.  Come in.”

The door opened and Heyes' smiling face put in an appearance.   Beth held out her other hand to him and he quickly stepped inside and came over to the chair that Belle had recently vacated.  He took her hand and also gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“Hey Sweetheart,”  he said softly.  “How are you?”

“Fine,”  she assured him.  “It's so good to see you Hannibal.  I'm pleased you're here.  Jed just might be needing you before this day is done.”

“I'm not going to miss an auspicious event like this,”  Heyes teased her as he sat down.  “but I'm reasonably sure your husband is going to be able to handle it on his own.”

“Yeah, thanks for the vote of confidence Heyes.”

“What are partners for?”  Heyes asked with a smile.

“Watchin' my back, standin' by me through the tough times...”

“Hey, you got your wife into this predicament without any help from me,”  Heyes pointed out.  “Time you stood up and took responsibility....”

“I'm takin' responsibility Heyes,”  Jed countered.  “I just expect you to hold up your end of the deal as my partner and this young'un's uncle.  Can't have ya' as the god-father if you're just gonna run away and hide when things get tough.”

“Run away and hide?”  Heyes was insulted.  “Since when have I ever.....god-father?”

“Yeah, a' course,”  Jed told him.  “but that's still pendin' mind you.  If you don't conduct yourself in the proper manner here then I'll just ask David.”

“What do you mean 'ask David'?”  Heyes griped.  “You and me have been partners for years and you're gonna turn around and ask a virtual stranger...”

“David is hardly a stranger....”

“Will you two stop it?”  Beth requested with a giggle.  “Of course you're going to be the god-father, Hannibal.  There's no question about it.  Unless of course, you don't want to.”

Heyes smiled and set the teasing aside.  “Of course I want to,”  he said and gave her hand a squeeze.  “It'll be an honour.”

“Good.  Ohhhh!”  Beth cringed and a knee came up as another stronger cramp assaulted her.  “Oh my goodness!”

The door opened and Nancy poked her head in.  “How are you doing, my dear?”

“Oww!”  Beth complained again.  “Oh my!  The cramps are getting worse.”

Nancy came the rest of the way in and was instantly at the bedside.  “Alright.  The husband can stay, but visiting time is over.”

Heyes was already on his feet, not needing to be told it was time to depart.  He leaned down and gave Beth another kiss and stroked a strand of blonde hair from her face.

“I'll see you later Sweetheart,”  he told her.  “We'll all just be in the other room.  We're not going anywhere.”

“Okay.”

Heyes and Jed locked eyes for an instant and no words needed to pass between them.  They both smiled and nodded and Heyes made his departure.


Three hours later, Beth had a sheen of sweat covering her body and Nancy was kept busy wiping her brow and her neck to help keep her cool.  The morning sun was well up by this time and the warmth of another summer day was already giving its promise of more to come.  Beth was panting as she recovered from another series of strong cramps and she clamped down on her husband's hand.  David finished up another examination of her progress and pulled the sheet back down over her knees to cover her up.

“You're moving along nicely, Beth,”  he assured her.  “It really shouldn't be too much longer.  How are you holding up?”

“Mama,”  Beth said in a strained voice.  “I want my mama.”

David looked to Nancy who smiled and nodded.  “I'll go get her.”  she agreed and quickly stood up and left the room.

David then looked over to Jed.  “How are you holding up Jed?  Can you still feel your hand?”

Jed turned a slightly pale face towards him, but still managed to smile.  “Kind'a.  It is taking a beating though,”

“Oh I'm sorry,”  Beth apologized.  “I didn't realize...”

“That's alright Darlin',”  Jed assured her as he stroked her damp hair.  “You got other things ta' deal with right now.”

“Mama!”  Beth held out her other hand to Belle as she came into the room.

Belle sat down beside her and picking up the cloth from the basin, took over the job of keeping her daughter cool.

“You're doing just fine sweetheart,”  she told her.  

“Don't leave me, Mama.”

Belle smiled reassuringly.  “I won't.  I'll be right here the whole time.”

“OWWWW!”

Jed cringed as his fingers got locked into another crushing squeeze but he toughened up and kept his mouth shut.


Out in the common room Heyes was up and pacing.  With every cry he heard from the bedroom, his hands found their way to his hair and his scalp was taking a beating.

“How long does this usually take?”  he asked an insufferably calm Jesse.

Jesse looked up from the newspaper he had been reading.  “Hard to say,”  he answered unhelpfully.  “David said he had one that went on for nearly thirty hours, others have only lasted six.”

Heyes stopped dead in his tracks and gaped over at his friend.  “Thirty hours!?”

Jesse shrugged.  “I'm sure that was an extreme case.”

Another yell of pain from the bedroom and Heyes was on the move again.  This whole situation was turning out to be a lot harder on him than he had imagined.  Then he perked up as the horses out in the pasture nickered a chorus of greetings, followed by the sound of others trotting into the yard.

“That's probably Miranda,”  Heyes announced and practically ran through the open front door and out into the yard.

Jesse sighed with relief then exchanged glances with the mid-wife as she came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea.

“First time uncle?”  she asked.

“Oh yes.”
 

Sure enough, Heyes had been right in his supposition other than that he underestimated the group of neighbours who were now descending upon the ranch house.  Percy was leading the entourage, hitched up to the little covered four seater that Miranda had purchased that spring.  She'd bought it on a whim, not realizing that their family was going to soon be expanding and now she thanked her own intuition for going ahead with the purchase.  Even Percy enjoyed being able to take everyone out all at once and he took a great deal of pride in the fact that he was so trusted.

Now he trotted into the yard with an arched neck and a light step as he angled the conveyance over towards the barn.  Miranda was driving, but seated beside her was Tricia cradling her young daughter, having decided that the minor inconvenience of having an infant child wasn't going to stop her from coming out.  Behind them in the back seat was an eager Sally and an equally as bored Nathan.  Behind them, Fannie was tied to the back of the carriage with a halter and shank.  She was all tacked up and ready for a ride so Hannibal knew his daughter would not be hanging around for long.

Behind this carriage, a second one made its way to the barn and stopped along side it to allow its passengers to step out.  Maribelle greeted her husband as Sam took the bridle of their harness horse and Merle came around to give her son a kiss on the cheek.  Carol was quick to jump down and run over to Sally so they could plan their great escape.

Heyes came over to greet his wife.  He found himself feeling very protective of her considering her maternal state and what he had just been experiencing inside the house.

“I'm glad you didn't ride out,”  he told her with a hug.  “I'd hate for anything to happen.”

Miranda smiled and exchanged a quick look with her cousin.

“I'm fine, Hannibal,”  she said.  “Don't worry; I'll be careful.  How is it going in there?”

Heyes sighed and looked back at the house.  “I guess it's going alright.  Jesse doesn't seem to be worried in any case.  But it seems an awful lot to go through.”

“Papa, can Carol and I go riding, please!”

Heyes glanced down at his daughter and looked over to Maribelle.

“It's alright,”  Maribelle told him.  “That's the main reason she wanted to come.  It's important you know, to meet Sally's new horse. You've put the pressure on the rest of us now.”

Heyes grinned.  That possibility hadn't occurred to him.

“Alright Sally, off you go.”

“Yes!  Yes!”  the child ran exuberantly to her friend and they both headed for the barn to get Sam's mare ready for travel.  Sam didn't worry about it as he knew that Ben was in the barn dealing with Percy and would help the girls get the riding horse tacked up.  Not that Carol needed any help.

Heyes frowned when he noticed a pouting Nathan running a toe through the dirt.  Sometimes being the doctor's son was no fun at all.

“Didn't you bring Todd with you?”  Heyes asked the company in general.

“Todd came out with Sam this morning,”  Merle informed him.  “If you can't find J.J., the two of them are probably off together somewhere.”

Heyes looked around and realized that he hadn't seen J.J. all morning.

“Sorry Nathan,”  he told the child.  “Looks like your buddies went off without you.”

“They're probably just down at the fishing pond,”  Nathan surmised.  “Can I go?”

“By yourself?”  Tricia wasn't too keen on that.  “Why don't you ask if you can borrow Spike or Monty and join the girls for a ride?”

Nathan didn't look too keen on that.  Heyes beckoned him over and as the child approached,  the adult almost squatted down to be on eye level with him only to realize yet again that another growing spurt had taken place. Nathan was a far cry from the small child he had first encountered in David's kitchen his first day back home.  He quickly covered up his mistake and put a hand on Nathan's shoulder instead.

“Listen, why don't you ride out with the girls for awhile,”  Heyes suggested, then lowered his voice.  “As soon as you get out of sight, go find your friends.”

Nathan instantly brightened up.  “Oh!  Yeah okay.”  he turned and ran towards the barn.  “Wait for me!  I'm coming with you!”

Most of the other adults breathed a sigh of relief, not knowing what brought about the change of heart, but thankful for it none the less.  Miranda however met her husband's brilliant smile with a reprimand.

“Hannibal.”

“What?”

“And I'm entrusting you to be a father?”

“Oh he'll be fine.”  Heyes insisted.  “Jeez, when Kid and I were his age, we......he'll be fine.”

“Well let's all go inside, shall we?”  the level-headed Merle suggested.  “I'm not as young as I used to be and that carriage ride out here is getting harder and harder.  I could do with a cup of tea!”

This was met with enthusiastic agreement and the whole group headed for the front porch.

As the throng was heading indoors, Jesse was heading out.  He had his coffee cup and his newspaper in one hand and he graciously held the door open with the other for the ladies to enter.

“Ladies,”  he smiled a greeting.  “Hello Merle, good to see you.”

“Hello Jesse, how is life treating you?”

“Fine, fine.  Go on in.  Nancy knew you'd all be showing up sooner or later and she's got a nice little brunch laid out for you all.”

“That was so considerate of her,”  Maribelle commented as they headed inside.  “but doesn't she have other things to do?  She's here to assist the doctor after all.”

“She's here to assist with anything,”  Merle informed her daughter-in-law.  “She's here if David needs her, but otherwise she's here to help keep the household running smoothly.”

“Well it's still very nice of her....”

And so the comments carried on and then faded as Jesse shut the door on them.  With a sigh of relief, he settled into a comfortable chair and carried on reading his paper.  Ellie who was laying on the other side of the porch looked up hopefully at her master and thumped her tail a few times.  Jesse glanced over at her and nodded.

“I know,”  he agreed.  “everything's in a turmoil today.”

Ellie sighed and settled her head back down on her paws and closed her eyes for another snooze.

Heyes suddenly realized Jesse's wisdom as he found himself surrounded by socializing females.  How they could all keep track of the numerous conversations going on around them was beyond him.  Yet every woman there seemed to be answering and asking various questions depending on which conversation they were picking up on at any given second.  And they were all keeping track of what everyone else was saying.  Geesh, the night after a successful robbery and two bottles of good whiskey making the rounds in the bunkhouse had never sounded so chaotic.

Then a loud anguished wail came from the bedroom and all chatter instantly stopped was every head in the room swivelled to the bedroom door.  Then as one they all started to cheer and laugh and the cackling started up all over again.  Heyes shook his head in bewilderment and headed out to join Jesse on the front porch.


Inside the bedroom, all was not socializing and chatter.  Beth was looking extremely distressed and she and the bed were getting soaked with perspiration as she struggled with her body.  Belle continued to bathe her daughter with cool water and was so busy with helping Beth to stay focused that she didn't even notice Nancy popping in every half hour to replenish the water and to offer any assistance that might be needed.

“So far so good,”  David assured her after a recent enquiry.  “I probably won't be needing you until after supper.”

“Fine.”

“Oh dear,”  Belle was suddenly alarmed.  “I need to get supper going.”

“No, no Belle!”  Nancy was quick to reassure.  “That's why I'm here.  Your daughter needs you more than she needs me.  I'll make sure everyone gets fed.”

“What do you mean, 'after supper'?!”  Beth demanded tersely.  “It's hardly noon yet and you're saying that this is going to carry on until tonight!?”

“You're doin' fine darlin',”  Jed soothed her as he ran his free hand through her hair.  “Once the baby's born you'll look back on all this....”

“What do you know!?”  Beth snapped at him.  “You're not the one going through this!  You're just sitting there like a bump on a log—what do you care if it takes all night!?”

“You're actually progressing along very nicely Beth,”  David informed her.  “No complications at all.  But you can't rush these things.  The baby will come when it's ready.”

“Well I'm ready now!”  Beth insisted and another wail escaped her as the strong cramps attacked her abdomen again.  

Jed cringed as he felt the bones crackling in his left hand.

“I can always give you a small dosage of painkiller,”  David reminded her.  “It won't harm the baby and it will make things go easier for you.”

“NO!”  Beth insisted.  “I want to do this the way mama did it—and Bridget!  I'm just as strong as they are!”

David and Belle exchanged defeated looks and Jed slumped in disappointment.  He didn't know how much more his hand could take.


The afternoon hours slowly ticked by although the ladies in the common room seemed to be having a fine social while waiting for the newcomer to arrive.  Carol and Sally had recently returned from their ride and had joined their mothers inside for lemonade and cookies, but there was still no sign of the boys.

“Oh don't worry about them,”  Jesse assured his friend when Heyes commented on this fact.  “J.J. might cut his meals short on occasion,  but I've never known him to miss one.  They'll be along.”

“Arrgg,”  Heyes groaned and was up and pacing again.

Ellie gave him a cautionary look, then got up from her place and padded over towards the barn.  There was just too much stress on that front porch to make for a comfortable afternoon nap.

“I never knew this would take so long,”  Heyes complained.  “Abi never told me it took this long.  How do they do it?  We always think of women as being weaker and needing our protection and yet they willingly put themselves through this?  Not only once but numerous times?  I don't think I could do this.  Abi never told me any of this.  It was just 'this is your daughter, now go away.'!  This is enough to put you off sex—well almost.  But really!  Why do women do it?  And they actually look forward to it—they want to have children, and more than one!  Are they mad?
“Ohh, and now Miranda.  I've done this to Miranda.  And she's in there listening to this and knowing that she's next!  Oh no.  She's gonna hate me!”  Heyes suddenly pulled up short as he realized something.  “The girls are in there!”  he stated the obvious.  “Should they be in there Jesse?  Hearing all that?  Isn't that going to scare them?”

Jesse just shrugged.  “The older children have always been around during the birth of the next in line.  It's never seemed to have any detrimental effect.”

“Really?”  Heyes was incredulous.  “I'm an adult and it's having a detrimental effect on me!  Poor Beth.”  He slumped.  “Poor Jed.”

Jesse chuckled.  “They'll survive.  You think this is traumatic, just wait until they're up and running around.  I swear you grow eyes in the back of your head.  You missed J.J. growing up through those years, but Jed.....”  Jesse backed off as he noticed his friend's demeanour change slightly and the soft brown eyes turned to meet his.  “I'm sorry Hannibal.  I didn't mean to bring that up.”

“No, it's alright,”  Heyes assured him.  “I did miss those years, not only with J.J., but with Anya too.  Years I'm never going to get back.”

“Well, you're here for your children now and that's what matters,”  Jesse told him.  “You're a good father, Hannibal.  I've watched you with Sally.  That child simply loves you to pieces.”

Heyes grinned with parental pride.  “Yeah, likewise.”

“And you'll be fine with your new one as well.  You'll see; it's a whole new adventure.”

Another anguished wail  made its way out to the front porch.  Heyes groaned and began his pacing again.


The sun was finally making its lazy way down toward the evening hours when the three boys and one horse put in an appearance with all four of them ready for supper.  Everyone who could eat had eaten and even the ladies had settled down into a quiet social tea.  Jesse and Heyes were still out on the front porch, quite content to let Sam and Ben take care of evening chores and even Heyes eventually stopped pacing and had settled down.  He sat now on the comfortable porch chair and cradled his daughter on his lap.  Sally was far from asleep, but she was content to stay where she was and unbeknown to her, having her resting against his chest did wonders to calm her father's stress level.


Everyone was exhausted inside the bedroom.  David had taken a short break to have something to eat and some tea but he did not stay away from the mother-to-be for very long.  This was Beth's first time and David always tried to stay close to the new mothers simply because he knew his presence gave them added reassurance.

Beth didn't like it when any of her support group left her in order to tend to necessity or to get some respite themselves.  Her stress level increased dramatically when either one of her hand-holders disappeared and she would not settle again until all were back where they were suppose to be.

Belle carried on with the seemingly endless task of bathing her daughter's face and trying to keep her relaxed and focused.  Jed held firm and spoke to her tirelessly even when there were times when she seemed totally unappreciative of him.  David assured him that this was normal and not to worry about it; it was just the pain talking.  Jed nodded and held on to that, but he never knew his wife had acquired such a varied vocabulary.

As late afternoon and then early evening rolled in, Beth writhed in pain as the the cramping intensified beyond belief.  She couldn't hold back the screams of pain and Jed was just about going crazy listening to her anguish and not being able to do anything about it.

His own mouth opened with a silent yell as Beth went into another spasm and her dainty hand crushed Jed's manly fingers into submission.

“Aww Beth...”  Jed finally croaked out as he fought the tears.  “Darlin' please, take something for the pain...”

“NO!”  Beth screamed again.  “I want to experience every second of this, just hurry it up!”

“You won't pass out,”  David assured her.  “You'll still be very much aware of what's going on.  It'll just take the edge off.  Tricia had it with Eleanor and it made things much easier for her.  She recovered faster too and she....”

“NO!”  Beth glared such rage at David that he thought she was going to get up and hit him over the head with the wash basin.

“Sweetheart,”  Belle took control and settled her daughter.  “There's no shame in it.  We all know how stubborn you can be, but there's really no need....”

More contractions hit and Beth shut down all arguments with another heart wrenching wail.

“Jesus!”  Jed couldn't help his curse.  “David, if she won't take the painkiller, can I have it?”

David smiled over at him, but before he could answer Beth turned on her husband, spitting wrath and glaring daggers.

“Don't you dare!”  she screamed at him.  “You coward!  You're not in any pain even though this is all your fault!  So you can damn well sit through this and share my pain with me!”

“Oh, believe me Beth darlin'; I'm sharin' your pain.”  Jed assured her through clenched teeth as he tried to pull his crushed fingers out of her grasp.

“Belle,”  David said quietly.  “I think it's time you got Nancy in here.”

Belle quickly stood up and made her way to the bedroom door.  Beth suddenly looked scared and her respiration quickened as soon as her mother left her side.

“What's wrong?”  Beth asked between heavy gasps.  “What's going on?”

“Nothing's wrong,”  David quietly assured her.  “You're just about to become a mother, that's all. Your baby is wanting to come out.”

Jed couldn't believe the overwhelming expression of joy that suddenly radiated off his wife's face but then it was gone in an instant as another strong contraction took hold of her body and sent her into anguish again.

“It's alright, we're almost there,”  David told her.  “Don't be afraid to push.”

“What the hell are you talking about!?”  Beth screamed at him.  “You should try laying here and NOT pushing!”

The bedroom door opened again and Belle along with Nancy entered the room and shut the door upon the excited faces in the common room.  Everyone was alert and animated again and the anticipating conversation was in full swing.

Belle went straight back to her daughter's side, while Nancy placed another basin of warm water and some towels on the night stand and then went to stand beside David to assist him in any way that might be necessary.  Fortunately for everyone involved,  David and Nancy were very accustomed to working together so on this occasion when Tricia was busy with her own new-born Nancy was able to step in and once again take on the duties of the mid-wife without causing a wrinkle.

Beth really didn't care at this time, she was so exhausted.  Her body attacked her again and clenching her jaws, she pushed with all her might and yet it seemed that nothing was happening.  The contraction eased and she lay there, panting and trembling with the exertion.  Jed was animated now, his crushed fingers forgotten as he caressed his wife and whispered encouragement to her.  Fortunately for Jed, by this time she was too done in to bite his head off.

“Your baby's coming Beth,”  David informed her.  “Just a couple more contractions should do it.  Hang in there, you're doing fine.”

Beth was beyond screaming now but she groaned loudly as her body pushed down and she gasped for air as soon as the cramping released her again.  Jed leaned in close, his own jaw tight and his own body pushing along with her's.  It was his turn now to be clasping her hand and they held on to each other as another contraction took her and she pushed and pushed until her face turned red and she was gasping for air.

“One more push Beth, one more!”

Beth yelled in her frustration as she pushed down again.

“C'mon, darlin'!”  Jed encouraged her.  “We're almost there.  Come on!”

A groan, a gritting of teeth and another hard push and suddenly Beth's eyes widened with shock as all the pain and pressure was instantly released and she felt the presence of new life between her legs.

“Here it is!”  David needlessly announced.   “Congratulations, it's a boy.”  The look of joy on his face spoke its own story.  It didn't matter how many times he assisted with the birthing of an infant, it just never got old.  

“It's a boy?”  Jed asked as he strained to get a look.

But then David placed the infant onto his mother's tummy so the new parents could get their first introduction.  Both mommy and daddy hands tentatively reached over to touch the new born and the infant squirmed and wiggled and struggled to draw it's first breaths.

“It's a boy,”  Beth whispered, totally in awe of what she had just produced.

“Look at those little hands, those tiny feet.”  Jed was beaming.  He couldn't believe it—he had a son.

David picked the infant up and began to massage his tiny chest and back in order to encourage him to start breathing regularly while at the same time Nancy moved in with soft towels and warm water to get the child cleaned up.  The umbilical cord was quickly snipped and tied off and then the infant, now cleaned up and wrapped in a soft blanket was settled back onto the mother's chest.

The two new parents were oblivious to all else around them.  Their whole world was there gently squirming and mumbling on Beth's chest and all they could see was their son.

“He's beautiful,”  Jed whispered.

“He's perfect,”  Beth agreed.

David and Nancy exchanged smiles and then David stood up and stretched out his six foot two frame.  He could really do with a cup of coffee right about now and maybe even something a little bit stronger.  Something to eat would be nice as well.  Nancy moved in to take over with helping Beth through the post delivery and then to get her cleaned up.  

Belle discreetly left the bedroom and stepped out into the common room.  All heads were instantly turned towards her.  She smiled through her own exhaustion.

“It's a healthy boy,”  she announced.


Twenty minutes later David realized just how hungry he was and was wolfing down a roast beef sandwich while Heyes was once again pacing the floor boards.

“Everything's alright?”  he asked the doctor.

“Yes,”  David assured him.  “It went very well.”

“But Beth was in a lot of pain.  Even I could tell she was...”

“Yes, but she's fine now.”

“Is Jed alright?  Can I see them?”

“In a minute Hannibal,”  David told him.  “Beth is just getting cleaned up.  Then, if they're up to it you can go in and visit for a moment.”

“Oh, okay.  So when...?”

Miranda came up and wrapped her arms around her husband, allowing David a moment to finish his sandwich.”

“My goodness Han,”  she teased him.  “If this is the way you are with Jed's child I shudder to think what you'll be like when ours comes.”

“I just want to see him, make sure he's alright.”

“The baby's fine, Han,”  David repeated wearily.  “He's very healthy.”

“No, I mean Jed,”  Heyes corrected him.  “Is Jed alright—and Beth?”

David nearly choked on his sandwich, took a swig of coffee to help it down, then grinned and couldn't help but chuckle.

“Jed's fine Han,”  he assured him.  “They're all pretty tired, but they're fine.”

The bedroom door creaked open just a smidgen and Jed's exhausted but radiant face peeked out.

“Heyes?”

“I'm right here partner.”

Jed grinned widely.  “C'mon Heyes, ya' gotta come in and see him.  He's amazing.  Come on, come and see him.”

David sighed but smiled too.  “Why am I not surprised,”  he commented.  “Miranda you didn't just marry a man, you married a symbiotic relationship.  Beth too.”

Heyes sent the doctor a slight frown and then made a hasty dash towards the bedroom.  Jed opened the door just wide enough to let his partner enter and Nancy to exit and then it was shut again in no uncertain terms.


Last edited by Keays on Sun May 25, 2014 1:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sat May 24, 2014 10:32 pm

“You'll notice that no one else was invited in,”  Miranda laughed. She glanced over at Jesse who had taken over as Sally's mattress and this time the child was asleep.  “I suppose we should all be heading home soon.”

“You're welcome to stay the night, Miranda,”  Belle offered as she poured tea for everyone.  “You and Joshua were awakened almost as early as we were.  You must be tired.”

“No more than anyone else,”  Miranda commented.  “Although, goodness knows how long Han is going to be in there.”

Belle smiled.  “I have a feeling he's going to want to stay for a while.”

“David and I will be heading home,”  Tricia announced.  “Eleanor needs to be in her own bed.  So, as soon as you're ready dear.”

David nodded as he took in some more coffee.  “As soon as I know Beth is settled alright for the night, we can head for home.  I'll swing by again though, tomorrow afternoon.”

Belle put a hand on his arm and gave him a pat. “Yes David, we know.”

“Well I certainly want to spend the night in my own bed,”  Merle stated bluntly.  “These old bones want what they're used to.  We'll come and visit with the baby in a few days.  Give the new family time to settle in.”

Maribelle agreed.  “Yes, we'll head home.  But we'll wait until you're ready to go Tricia.  It's always safer to travel together after dark.”

“Yes, alright,”  David said as he finished his hasty meal.  “Let me just check on Beth and then we can get going.  

Xxxx

Heyes stood with his back up against the closed door for a moment and just stood to take in the sight that presented itself before him.  Jed had gone directly back to his wife where she lay on the bed, cuddling their son and he gently caressed the crown of the infant's head.  He smiled back at his cousin and Heyes couldn't help but grin back.

“C'mon Heyes,”  Jed encouraged him quietly.  “Come over and say 'hello'.”

Heyes' dimples flickered in and out with his nervous excitement but he went over to the other side of the bed and leaning down, gave Beth a kiss on the forehead.

“Hi,” was his simple greeting.

Beth's smile grew despite her exhaustion and lifting her one hand, she took hold of Heyes' little finger and directed it over so that his palm ended up capping the tiny head.  Heyes caught his breath and then actually started to giggle.  The subtle thought drifted across his consciousness that he was succumbing to spontaneous giggling a lot lately. He stroked the head and then gently laid his hand down on the infant's back and held it there for a moment, feeling the life flowing through the brand new body.  He actually had tears in his eyes as he lifted them up to meet those of his cousin's.

“Take him for a bit, will you Jed?”  Beth asked quietly.

“What?”  Jed asked her.  “You want me to hold him?”

“He's your son, isn't he?”  she teased him.  “I'm so tired.  I just need to rest for a moment.”

“Oh yeah, okay.”

Jed stood up and gingerly slipped his hands under the baby's body and carefully lifted him off his mother's chest.  He squirmed a little bit, making little fists with his hands and whimpering a mild protest at having been disturbed.  Jed sat down again and settled his son into the crook of his arm and then smiled pure joy over to his cousin.

“Go on,”  Beth said to her dear friend.  “go get acquainted.”

Heyes swallowed but nodded, and taking the second chair with him, he went around to sit down with the new father.  And there he sat, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees and just staring.  He'd never felt this inconsequential in his life.

Jed leaned back in his chair, holding his son and breathed a huge sigh of contentment.

“He's amazing,”  Heyes was in awe as he reached over to touch the child again.  “He's already got Beth's nose.”

“Aw Heyes, I still can't believe it,”  Jed grinned.  “Now I understand how you felt the first time you held Anya.  And 'yeah' she was beautiful—I can see that now.”

Heyes nodded as a brief flicker of sadness washed over his eyes.  He hadn't told Jed about the letter from Abi and now was not the time.  He pushed that disappointment away and focused on the new little life in front of him.   He smiled again and played with the tiny little fingers that responded in kind and played back in response to the touch.  All of a sudden he couldn't wait for his own to put in an appearance.

“Have you got a name for him?  I know it's kind of early, but if you already had one picked out...”

Jed glanced over to Beth to see that she had already fallen asleep.  He smiled and sent tired eyes back to his cousin again.

“Yeah,”  he said.  “I swore up and down that I wasn't ever gonna do this.  If I ever had children I wanted them to be part of my future, not my past.  But well,”  he shrugged.  “Beth kinda insisted.  She said that she fell in love with a man named Thaddeus and she wanted to keep the name in the family.  So I guess that's gonna be the little fella's name; Thaddeus Jedidiah.”  He laughed.  “The next one will be more original.”

“Aw no, that's a good name Kid,”  Heyes assured him.  “And I want to thank you for not naming him 'Hannibal'.”

Jed laughed again.  “Well we ain't done yet, Heyes.  The next one just might...”

“Don't you dare!”

A soft knocking sounded on the door and both men glanced over that way.

“Yeah?”  Jed answered it.

The door opened quietly and David stepped in.

“How's everything going in here?”  the doctor asked.  “Awfully quiet.”

“Beth fell asleep,”  Jed stated the obvious and then looked down at his son.  “And so has he.”

“Good.  Did he suckle at all?”

“Yeah, he did a little bit,”  Jed told him.  “Not very much though.”

David nodded as he walked quietly over to Beth and did a quick check on her vitals.

“That's fine,”  he assured the new father.  “As long as he took some.  Beth may not produce milk right away, but she will soon enough.  As long as he got the colostrum then he'll be fine.  Both of them have been through a very strenuous day and they need to sleep.”

“Oh yeah,”  Jed perked up as he actually knew something 'medical'.  “Jesse was saying that about the new-born foals; they had to get the colostrum right away or they wouldn't make it.  I just never thought about that applying to babies too.”

“Well it does,”  David assured him.  “but it sounds like he got it so all is good.  Let Beth know when she wakes up that she'll be producing milk soon enough and not to worry about it.  Nature has its way; best not to mess with it.”

Heyes was looking perplexed; for all his genius he felt totally out of his depth in this discussion.

“Colostrum?”  he asked.

“Yeah,”  Jed informed his older cousin.  “It's a mineral or a supplement or somethin' that new-born's gotta get within hours of bein' born or they likely won't survive.  It's real important.”

“Oh. I never knew that,”  Heyes felt betrayed.  It seemed that all he knew about women's bodies and babies was how to make them.  He felt a fear settle over him as his thoughts went inward; how many more things did he not know about babies?  “Abi never said anything about that.”

“Don't feel bad Hannibal,”  David consoled him.  “Most men don't know about this.  Women's issues, you know.”

“Well yeah, but...”

“Seriously Hannibal, don't worry about it,”  David continued.  “As soon as you hold your own new-born in your arms, your world as you know it, will change.  Then it will all just come naturally.”

Heyes frowned and wasn't sure that he was happy with that.  Time to grab some of Doc Morin's medical journals and do some research.

David had forgotten about Hannibal and his insecurities and stood by his patient for a moment and smiled down at her quiet face.  He brushed a hand through her hair and cupped her cheek, his affection and respect for this young woman coming through in his eyes.

“You both did very well today, Jed,”  David told him.  “I suggest you go get something to eat and then get some sleep yourself.”

“Ah yeah, okay.”  Jed looked around feeling lost as to what to do next.  “Where should I put him?”

“Just settle him in beside Beth,”  David told him.  “When you come to bed make sure you lay down on the opposite side of her so he doesn't get squashed in between you.”

Jed paled,  “Are you sure that's safe?”

“Don't worry Jed,”  David assured him.  “Mothers have slept with their babies since the beginning of time.  They'll be fine.”

Jed nodded and slowly stood up, cuddling the baby safely to his chest.  He walked over to the bed and settled the infant down into the crook of Beth's arm.  Thaddeus yawned and snuggled in and Beth sighed softly in her sleep.  Jed was certain that he saw a hint of a smile settle upon her lips.

“I love you darlin',”  he whispered as he caressed her face.  “You did real good today.”

Heyes came up behind his partner and put a hand on his shoulder.  “You did real good today too, Cousin,”  he said.  “I'm real proud of you.”

“Yeah.  Thanks Heyes.  He's sure somethin' ain't he?”

“He sure is.”


The next morning everyone but Jed and Beth were at the breakfast table taking advantage of flapjacks and bacon. The fact that the enticing aromas hadn't pulled Jed out of the bedroom said a lot for the magnitude of the previous evenings events.

Discussion around the table was subdued but pleased even though Heyes still found himself in shock over all the things he didn't know.  Miranda tried to be supportive of his frail ego by holding his hand and making sure his coffee cup was never empty.  All Sally wanted to do was go riding.

All heads turned as an infant's wail was distinctly heard from the bedroom and then smiles were sent around the table.

“I'll get a breakfast tray ready for them,”  Belle announced.  “I'm sure they're both hungry by now.  And Thaddeus will certainly be wanting his morning coffee.”

“Which one?”  Heyes asked mischievously,  “You're going to have to get used to having two Thaddeus' in the family now.”

“Oh dear,”  Belle stopped and thought about that.  “I suppose I should start calling you two by your proper names.  It's just....”

“I know,”  Heyes sobered.  “Don't change on my account.  It's really no different than Jesse and J.J.  You're just going to have to come up with a nick name for Thaddeus Jr.”

Belle smiled.  “Yes.  T.J.!”  she announced half-jokingly then her eyes brightened as a though came to her.  “Actually, that could stand for Thaddeus Jedidiah too!  Yes; T.J.  That will do quite nicely.”  And she walked off to get the breakfast tray ready.

“Oh dear,”  Heyes mumbled.  “I hope Kid doesn't mind.”

“Well if he still puts up with you calling him 'Kid',”  Miranda pointed out.  “then he has no right to quibble about T.J.”  

“What?”  Heyes was incensed.  “What's wrong with 'Kid'?”

“Don't you think he's kind of out-grown it?”  Miranda persisted.  “I mean, he is approaching forty.”

Heyes sat silently and nursed his coffee.  Life as he knew it really was beginning to change.  He sighed.  Maybe it was time he grew up.  But, then again....”

xxxx

The sounds of whimpering invaded Jed's dreams and for an instant he couldn't fathom what could possibly be making such an unusual sound.  He felt his wife stirring beside him and the whimpering became more of a gentle cry and with that he was instantly awake.  

Beth was laying on her side, facing away from her husband and Jed set himself up on an elbow and snuggled in to his wife's shoulder.  Embracing her and giving her a kiss he then leaned over further to see how his son was doing.  Thaddeus Jr. was laying on his back, his little arms and legs squirming as he became accustomed to his new environment.  Beth offered him a breast and he latched on and suckled and seemed quite content with that.  Jed reached over his wife's body and stroked his son's head.

“He's still here,”  Jed whispered.  “He is real.”

“He won't be here for long if I can't produce any milk,”  Beth complained anxiously.  “He wants to suckled but I just don't seem to have much for him.”

“David said not to worry about that,”  Jed assured her.  “It'll come and in the mean time, he's getting what he needs.  Maybe it's the act of him suckling that gets the milk to come.”

“Yes, I suppose,”  Beth agreed tentatively.  “He certainly doesn't seem distressed at all.”

“Nope.  He's looking pretty happy.”

Beth cuddled her son close and bringing him with her, she rolled over to face her husband and they settled into an embrace.  Jed hugged her close, pushing her body in to his and feeling the tiny innocent life stirring in between them.  Jed caressed his son and then before he could think against it, his hand slid into Beth's open nightie and he cupped her breast and massaged the erect nipple.

He felt such an arousal hit him that he was embarrassed and ashamed of his behaviour and he started to pull away but Beth stopped him and drew his hand back to her breast.  Brown eyes looked up to meet blue and they came together in a loving and passionate kiss.  They embraced one another and for the first time in their lives, that embrace enveloped three hearts.  A bonding was sealed right then and there that would never be broken and their lives would be forever changed.



Late morning found the two cousins and the new infant relaxing out on the front porch.  It had been late when everyone had finished their breakfasts and once little Thaddeus had been tended to as much as he'd wanted Beth had simply fallen asleep again.  Jed stood in the bedroom, gazing down upon his sleeping wife and child and considered his options.

He was wide awake and if truth be known was feeling a little jealous over the time Beth spent nursing their son.  It was a special time for her, he knew; he could see the radiant joy in her face as the child suckled and the bond that was growing between them grew stronger with every minute.  

Jed wanted that too.  Of course he knew he couldn't suckle his son; that was ridiculous, but he wanted so much to hold him.  Wanted to feel the little body squirming in his arms, wanted to keep him close and protect him.  But he was divided.  Thaddeus was sleeping quietly in the crook of his mother's arm.  Should Jed disturb him?  Was that alright?  Or was he simply being selfish?

Then little Thad made up his father's mind for him.  He whimpered and stretched, his little fists clenched as he let loose a huge yawn.  Not getting much response from his sleeping mother and child gave all indications of sounding off his disapproval when the father stepped in to save the day and allow the mother to continue sleeping.

Heyes was already out on the porch basking in the warm summer sun.  He opened his eyes when he heard a chair being dragged over towards him and then smiled as is cousin and 'nephew' settled in beside him.

“How's Beth?'  he asked sleepily.

“Asleep,”  Jed answered with a chuckle.  “You look like you could use some more too.  Bad night?”

Heyes stretched and yawned himself.  “No, just kind of late,”  he admitted.  “Randa and I were up talking and before we knew it we were into the morning hours.”

“Oh yeah?”  Jed commented absently while he rocked his son.  “What about?”

Heyes sent a sidelong glance over to the child and Jed smiled.  “Randa worried now, after what Beth went through?”

“No,”  Heyes said in a tone of mild disbelief.  “I thought she'd be all upset.  You know; saying that she didn't want the child now, that she didn't want to go through that, but....”

“No?”

“No!”  Heyes still couldn't quite believe it.  “She was so excited she couldn't wind down enough to get to sleep.  Said she couldn't wait for our child to arrive.  How happy she was for you.  I mean, I can understand that part of it.  I mean, I'm happy for ya' too Kid, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“But how could she be excited about going through that?”  Heyes asked.  “It's like witnessing someone having a bullet dug out of 'em without the benefit of some good whiskey and then standing up and saying 'Hey shoot me!  I wanna go next!'.”

Jed snorted.

“I don't get it.”

“Maybe ya' don't need to get it, Heyes,”  Jed commented.  “Just be happy she feels that way.  Yesterday was hard, but it was exciting too.  And look what we got!”

“Yeah,”  Heyes chuckled as he looked over at the bundle in Jed's arms.  “He is pretty special.”

“Yeah.”  Jed gazed down at his son for a moment then came to himself and looked around.  “It's awfully quiet around here.  Where is everyone?”

“Well,”  Heyes thought about that for a moment.  “Let's see.  Jesse and Ben left a couple of hours ago to get supplies.  I'm surprised you didn't hear the wagon leaving.”

“Yeah well.  You know.”

“Uh huh.  I think Sam is out checking the south fence line.  Some cattle from that area were showing some barb wire cuts so they figured they better check that out.”

Jed perked up a little at that news.  “Yeah, good idea.”

“Hmm.  Belle and Miranda I think are out in the back tending to that garden.  They were here tending to this one about an hour ago, so it would make sense that they've moved on to the other one.”

“You're real observant here today, Heyes.”

“Hmm.  You should talk.  You didn't even notice that Spike and Fannie were missing from the pasture.”

Jed glanced over to the grass field where the riding horses were contentedly grazing and lazily swishing their tails against the slightly annoying summer flies.

“Oh yeah,”  he mumbled.

“That's because Sally and J.J. have gone riding and probably won't be back until their bellies tell them it's supper time.”

“I think you created a monster, giving Sally her own horse.”

Heyes shrugged.  “Fannie will look after her.  Besides she needs to get out and have some fun while she can.  Once she grows up and starts having babies herself, that will be it.”

“You're all doom and gloom all of a sudden,”  Jed noticed.  “You were so excited about having a new baby, now you're acting like it's the worse possible fate a woman can endure.  If I'd known it was gonna affect ya' like this I never would have invited ya' out.”

“Aw it's not that Kid,”  Heyes shifted uncomfortably.  “You have a wonderful son there; no doubt about it and I couldn't be happier for you.  I mean that.  And I am looking forward to our next child.  It's just....I don't know if I can handle seeing Randa go through that.  I just never knew.  Geesh, I've fathered two children and I had no idea what goes on.”

“It's pretty intense alright,”  Jed agreed.  “I mean, I kinda already knew cause, I spent a lot of time talkin' ta' Belle about this stuff back then when I was questioning everything, you know...”

“Yeah.”

“And I couldn't understand it either; why a woman would be willing to put herself through that,”  he smiled down at his son who had settled into sleep again.  “I don't question it no more Heyes.  Not now.  There's nothin' like this.  Nothin in the world.  Even crackin' open the latest Pierce and Hamilton and finding it full of gold bars don't compare to how I felt when this fella came into our lives.  And besides,”  he continued with a smile,  “Miranda ain't near as stubborn as Beth.  I'll bet ya' any odds you want that she'll accept the painkillers and have a whole lot easier time about it.”

Heyes chuckled, his gloomy outlook lifting.  “I don't think I'll take that bet Kid.  I think I'd lose.”

At this point, both men gazed off into the distance and shaded their squinting eyes from the high sun in order to get a look at who was coming.

“Oh, it's Sam,”  Jed announced before Heyes could even make out that it was an adult and not his daughter coming back early.  “He must have found that break in the fence fairly quickly for him to be coming back now.”

Sam trotted his mare into the yard and pulled her up at the barn.   He waved a greeting to the two men on the porch before he dismounted, then slipped the saddle off his mare and put her out in the pasture with the other horses.  It didn't take her long to trot over to the universally favoured dirt patch and get herself lined up for a good roll.  It hadn't been a really strenuous ride but any excuse to have a good scratch and dust bath would do.

Sam closed the gate and hung the bridle on the post in anticipation of needing her again later, then he walked over towards the porch.  The sight that met his eyes almost stopped him in his tracks but he was quick to cover his surprise and he kept coming.  In hindsight he realized that he shouldn't have been taken aback by the deja vu scene that met his eyes but perhaps it was more the emotions that it dredged up from the past than what he was actually seeing here in the present.

His thoughts went back to a much younger, more naive version of himself walking up to this very same porch and seeing the prisoner, Kid Curry asleep in the chair with the Jordan's infant son snuggled into the crook of his arm.  That vision had affected Sam far more than he let on.  His whole defining view of what outlaws were had been challenged on that afternoon.  It was that one incident more than anything else that had moved him to greatly regret his part in what had happened that spring so long ago.

Now here was Jed Curry once again sitting on the porch with an infant cradled in his arms but the circumstances surrounding this scene couldn't have been more different.  Instead of a lawman with a rifle, Jed's cousin and closest friend was sitting beside him now and both men had their freedom.  Both men were married, with families of their own and a future ahead of them.  And Sam smiled.

Maybe what he had done hadn't been so wrong after all.  It seemed a terrible betrayal at the time and it had sent both these men on a long and arduous journey—and a dangerous one too.  And yet here they were, come back full circle to be sitting on the Jordan's front porch smiling and talking with one another and enjoying the new little arrival.

“Hey Sam,”  Jed greeted him. “Pull up a chair.  I think I'm hearing sounds of food in the kitchen so it ought to be lunch time pretty soon.”

“Yup, I kinda' figured.”  Sam pulled up another chair and plunked himself down.  “I never did give ya' my congratulations.  He's a real fine lookin' boy.  I'm sure glad things worked out better than, well...the last time.”

Heyes nodded emphatic agreement.

“Yeah, me too,”  Jed agreed, then he took on a more casual demeanour but he wasn't fooling anyone.  “So, you were over at the south section?”

Sam smiled.  “Yeah.”

“Did ya' happen ta' see....?”

“Yeah, I did,”  Sam told him.  “He's lookin' real good Jed.  Couldn't be happier spendin' his days playin' with those foals.”

Heyes sent a grin over to his cousin, knowing how much that would mean to him.

Jed smiled.  “Good.  I was kinda' worried about him and with not being able to get up there and check on him myself, well I'm glad ya' saw him today.”

“Yup,”  Sam confirmed again.  “He's lookin' fat and shinny.  And now with those sheds me and Jesse built this past spring in the big pasture, when it's time for weaning those youngsters this fall they can all come and stay down here.”

“Why doesn't he just put them in the barn?”  Heyes asked.  “Wouldn't it be better for them in there?”

“For one thing, we don't have enough room,”  Sam explained.  “We got quite a large foal crop this year and the barn just isn't big enough.  On top of that Mr. Jordan always held that horses do better when they're outside, as long as they got shelter to get out of the worst of the bad weather and enough to eat and drink a' course.
“I kinda gotta agree with him on that.  Horses that grow up outdoors seem to be healthier and stronger
than the ones who get sheltered in a barn all winter long.  I've seen more than one horse go down from colic or have breathing problems after they've been cooped up for weeks or maybe even months on end.  It just ain't natural for 'em.”

Heyes became thoughtful.  “Hmm, and there's my three looking at spending the winter in a barn,” he commented.  “I know Karma doesn't like it, she never did and it's probably a safe bet that Fannie won't like it either.  Hmm.  I just might have to do something about that.”

Just then Miranda poked her head out through the open front door.  “Listen you lazy heads; lunch is on the table if you're interested.”

“Oh!”

“Yeah, for sure.”

“Let me just get Thaddeus back to his mother.”  Jed smiled as he stood up and headed inside.  “Geesh, that still sounds kinda' strange to me.”



Sam was over by the fire pit busy with tending the side of roasting calf that had been put on the spit in preparation of the coming feast.  He glanced up at the sound of the approaching horse and buggy and sent them a wave.  He was just about to wipe his hands clean to go assist when young Ben came running out of the barn as the surrey pulled up in the Double J yard. 

The new hire ran to the head of the handsome bay gelding in the traces and held the horse, looking up at the visitors.  “Welcome to the Double J, Mr. and Mrs. Medgar, I’m Ben.  If it’s all right by you, I’ll take this fellow out of his harness and turn him out.”

“Thank you, Ben.  The children hope to take him for a ride later, so if you don’t mind, please keep him close by,” said Mr. Medgar as he helped his wife from the carriage. 

A blond-haired little girl of about nine jumped from the rear seat of the carriage and landed on her knees with a soft thud.  A smaller boy giggled as she was encased in a cloud of dust.

“Libby!  What did we discuss about lady-like behavior?” asked Allie, shaking her head at her tomboyish daughter.

“Sorry, Mama,” said the dusty girl, standing up and trying desperately to clean the dirt off the knees of her skirt. 

She was dressed for riding, wearing a split skirt like her mother favored, not the usual blue jeans she wore at home.  Her parents had long ago given up trying to curb her enthusiastic approach to life.  She was her mother’s daughter.  Allie couldn’t help a small smile.  She could still remember her own mother’s admonishments. 

Reaching up again, Scott lifted his son from the carriage and swung him around before putting him down.  “Papa, people are watching,” said Carbon.

Allie turned and saw her friends smiling at them from the ranch house porch.  She took her children’s hands and led them to the house. 

“Allie, Scott, welcome to the Double J,” said Jesse, coming down off the porch to meet them.  Heyes and Jed stood on the porch behind him. 

Scott had followed her carrying the two carpetbags they’d brought for their visit and he put them down and took Jesse’s hand.  “Jesse, it’s good to see you again.  Thank you so much for inviting us.”

“Carbon, Libby, this is Mr. Jordan,” said Allie.  Both children solemnly extended their hands with shy smiles and Jesse gently shook each tiny hand.  “And this is Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry.”  The two ex-outlaws came down the steps and stood before the children.

Heyes knelt down and smiled.  “You can call me, Heyes or Uncle Heyes, if that’s all right with your folks.  None of the kids call me Mister and that’s the way I like it.” 

Libby surprised herself and everyone else by throwing herself into his arms.  Heyes held onto her and looked helplessly at Allie and Scott, who laughed, “Another conquest.  You’re going to have to stop making time with my ladies, Heyes.”

Jed ruffled Carbon’s hair as the small boy studied him earnestly.  “I bet you two are tired of all us grown-ups.”

Carbon nodded his agreement. 

“Well, then, you’d best get on out back with the rest of the kids; they’ve been waitin’ all mornin’ for you.”

With a whoop, Libby detached herself from her new uncle and grabbed her brother’s hand, tugging him along as she hurried around the corner of the house.

Jed hugged Allie and shook Scott’s hand.  “I hope you don’t mind me sendin’ ’em off.  The kids have been bustin’ with excitement to meet ‘em.”

“No, that’s perfect!  They’ve been beside themselves with boredom for the last few hours and I was at my wit’s end with them.  Where’s the baby?  I am dying to meet him.”  Allie looked eagerly at the house.

“He’s inside.  The ladies are in the kitchen fixin’ dinner.  I don’t think they heard you drive up.  Let’s go on in and surprise them.” 

Jed held out his arm and she slipped her hand into it and stood up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.  “I’m so pleased for you, Jed.  You are going to be a wonderful father.”

“I sure hope so, darlin’,” grinned Jed, leading her into the house. 

Heyes smiled at Scott.  “Why don’t we wait until the oohing and aahing is over?  We were just enjoying a mug of Jesse’s homebrewed beer a moment ago.  Can I pour you some to wash the trail dust away?”

“Now you’re talking,” said Scott, sitting in one of the rockers and taking the cool earthenware mug that was held out to him.  He took a sip and smiled.  “Jesse, if you breed horses half as good as you brew beer this will be the start of a long and prosperous partnership!”

“He does and it will be.”  Heyes handed a mug to Jesse and sat.

“After you and Allie have a moment to freshen up, I’ll take you on a tour of the pastures.  We’ve got several of last year’s crop that I want to show you.”  Jesse was proud of his animals and was looking forward to showing them to someone who’d appreciate them. 

From inside the house came the sounds of happy voices raised in greeting.  Welcomes abounded and hugs were exchanged, but all attention quickly shifted to the new mother.

“Oh, Beth, he’s so handsome!  Just like his Papa.”  Allie reached out and stroked the soft, downy hair on Thaddeus’ head. 

“Would you like to hold him?” asked Beth, generously.

“May I?”  Allie sat down next to Beth and held out her arms as Beth slipped the swaddled infant into them.  “He’s just beautiful and so healthy!”  The tiny body wriggled in her arms getting comfortable.  Well used to being doted on and cuddled, Thaddeus quickly settled down and fell asleep as Allie gazed in wonderment at him.  It brought tears to her eyes to see her friend’s new family.  No one deserved this more than Jed.  She looked up with a sad smile.  “I so miss having a baby around.  Those days are over for me forever.  Carbon’s birth was…difficult.”

“Well, then you’re just going to have to come visit more often,” said Belle.  “The population here is exploding.”  She smiled at Miranda, who colored brightly.  Allie saw and instantly understood.

“You, too?  You and Heyes are expecting?” Everyone was shocked as she began to cry.  “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m just so thrilled for you all and I’m so happy to be here.” 

Belle gripped Allie’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze to help her regain her composure. 

She looked up at Jed, “It’s just…all those years, I worried so much about you both and now it’s all too perfect!”

Beth placed a hand on her arm.  “We’re so glad you’re here, Allie.  Jed and Heyes have told us all so much about you and Scott.  We are all so grateful that you helped them come home safely.”

“Yes, we are,” Miranda agreed.  “We are looking forward to getting to know you better, too.”

Allie wiped her eyes with a soft linen napkin and nodded.  “Thank you.”  Embarrassed by her emotional state, she changed the subject.  “Perhaps, we should join the men on the porch.  Scott has some news for everyone and I know he’s anxious to tell it.”


Jed and the ladies stepped out onto the porch and found that Scott, Heyes, and Jesse had wandered over to the large, fenced field next to the barn where the yearlings were turned out.  They crossed the yard and as they drew closer to the three men, they could overhear them talking.  Jesse and Scott had their heads close together and were discussing the various attributes of the animals.  Heyes was stroking the nose of a handsome bay colt and listening intently.

“Now, he’s a fine animal, but he’s a little long in the back for me,” Jesse was saying.  “I’m going to geld him soon, and he’ll go as a carriage horse, but next time I’m looking to breed his dam to a stockier type.”

“I have just the stallion; he stands a good sixteen hands, but he’s close-coupled and he’s got excellent muscling.  Why don’t you come out to the ranch in the next month and take a look at him?  Our current crop of youngsters will be going to Texas at the end of September.  They’ve been consigned to a ranch down there,” said Scott, “but I’d like you to see his get before they’re all gone.”

“All of them?” asked a surprised Heyes.  He glanced over his shoulder and smiled at the ladies and Jed, who came up next to them and leaned over the fence, lifting one leg to rest on the bottom rail.  The field was a good fifty acres of lush pasture and was dotted with young horses and shady trees.

Jed hadn’t seen most of them since they were weanlings and he whistled his appreciation.  “They’ve sure grown up to be fine-lookin’ critters, Jesse.”

“Thanks, Jed, I’m glad you feel that way since you’ll be helping break them this winter,” said Jesse with a smile.

Scott slipped his arm around Allie’s waist and drew her close to him.  “Yes, Heyes, the whole crop of yearlings has been sold.”

“To who?” asked Belle.

Jesse laughed and kissed her cheek.  “Now you know a horseman isn’t going to sell and tell, honey.  Scott’s got a good client and he doesn’t want somebody else selling to him.  Not unless we become partners.”  He winked at Scott.

“Scott, we came out to hear the news.  You haven’t told Heyes and Jesse yet, have you?” asked Allie.

“No, but now is a good time,” said Scott.  “I’m impressed with the quality of your livestock, Jesse.  You’ve built quite an operation here and I would be very interested in mingling our bloodlines.  I think the Double J and the Second Chance could become major breeders if we do.  That said, there’s something Allie and I would like you to have.”  He reached inside his coat and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

“What is that?” asked Heyes, leaving the colt, and taking Randa’s hand in his own. 

“That’s Karma’s bloodlines!”  Allie couldn’t contain her excitement.  She clapped her hands excitedly and nearly danced in place.  She knew all too well what this information would mean to her dear friends.

“Yes, we got Karma accepted as a mare by the quarter horse breeders down in Texas.  She’s an approved mare now and here are the papers to prove it.”  Scott handed the papers to Heyes. 

The ex-outlaw saw his own name listed as Karma’s owner on the formal-looking documents and felt his excitement grow.  Jesse leaned over his shoulder and avidly read the papers.  “Karma’s got Australian in her?  He’s one of the finest thoroughbred stallions to stand in America!”  He had turned pale and Belle clutched his arm.   “Ned’s sire was Pine Knot and he’s a half-brother to Lock’s Rondo who is the top quarter horse sire in Texas!  Does that mean Ned is considered a full-blooded quarter horse stallion?”

“Yes, Jesse, he is, and there’s already several ranches who are interested in breeding to him.  That is, if you are interested,” Scott added.  He didn’t want to overstep with his new friends, but he was bursting with enthusiasm.  Belle gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.   Jesse laughed delightedly and grabbed her about her waist, swinging her around him, as he covered her with kisses.

“Is this important, Hannibal?” asked Randa.  She wasn’t very familiar with horse breeding, but she could certainly see that the Jordans were delighted.  Beth was holding young Thaddeus tightly and tears ran down her face; she was so happy for her parents. 

Heyes had a hard time finding his voice.  “Yes,” he cleared his throat, “it’s very important, darling.  There’s an incredible demand for these horses.  Scott just basically made the Double J rich.”  He laughed.  “Even richer than it already is.  This is going to make it seem like the winter of '87 never happened.  Every ranch in Colorado will be looking to breed to Ned.  His bloodlines are impeccable.  No wonder Karma is such a princess; she knew all along!”

Miranda squeezed his hand.  “And Karma’s an approved mare.  Maybe we should breed her again.  After all, what’s another baby on the way?”

Everyone laughed as Heyes hugged her.  “Please, one baby at a time is all I can handle.” 

Jesse let Belle go and turned to Scott.  He held out a hand to Scott as Belle and Allie looked on.  “Scott, thank you.  I can’t tell you how much this means to me!  To us; all of us.”

“You’re welcome, Jesse.  But, really, you should thank Heyes and Jed.  Without them, Allie wouldn’t have had Fannie or the Second Chance and none of this would be happening.  Because of that, I would like to suggest that the four of us--you, me, Jed, and Heyes--discuss an idea.  I’m thinking a partnership might be a wise move.  Now, I’m not suggesting a merging of the ranches.  We will still have our own separate breeding programs, but we should think about the future.  Our joint breeding program will be a success; I’m confident of that, but we don’t know how much of a success.  How do we put a value on potential foals?  How do we decide who gets what animal and the profits from future stallions?  I’m suggesting that the four of us form an altogether new business to split the wealth,” said Scott.

Jesse nodded his agreement, but Jed spoke up, “Uh, why the four of us?  Me and Heyes aren’t partners in the Double J.”

“Girls, it's time to get the tables set up out here for supper. I could use some help.  Why don’t we leave the men to work all this out?” said Belle.  She realized that the men had much to discuss and would likely get further without the pressure of their wives watching the negotiations.  Hesitantly, Beth and Miranda followed her to the house.  They wanted to know what exactly Scott had in mind.

“Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on the plan,” whispered Allie.  

The men watched them go and then resumed their conversation.

“What kind of new business?” asked Heyes. 

“A partnership to promote our new joint bloodline, share the profits fairly, and sell breeding shares,” answered Scott.

“Breeding shares?” asked Jed.

“Yes, it’s how the big thoroughbred farms handle their stallions.  They pre-sell the opportunity to breed to their stallions upon approval of the mare.  That way they can control the quality of the mares by having time to research their suitability; thereby insuring their offspring are the finest possible.  Also, it allows them to limit the breedings each year which maintains their stallions and drives up the demand,” explained Scott.  “In order to do this, we’ll need to reach out and introduce Ned and our other stallions.  It will mean lots of time traveling and careful management of our animals.”

“I understand all that, but where do Heyes and I come in?  We don’t have a stake in all this.”

Scott smiled.  “No, but I think you should.  Like I said, none of this would be happening without you both.”

“Besides,' Jesse added. "I’m getting up in years and if we’re going to expand the way I think we are, I’ll be needing some more help around the place,”

“I can see Jed being a partner.  He’s Beth’s husband and he already works for you, but what can I contribute?” asked Heyes.

“You are a natural born salesman, Heyes, with a head for business and a horseman to boot,”  Scott told him.  “I think you’re the perfect person to promote us.  I’d like to see you in charge of the joint venture.  You’d handle the business end of things which would free Jesse and me to handle the ranching.  I, for one, don’t have enough time in a day to stay on top of the paperwork.  That’s why Allie handles it all for our two ranches, but she can’t take on anymore.” 

“On top of that,”  Jesse contributed thoughtfully,  “Beth of course has a head for finance that I've never seen equaled and I'm sure she'll want to do her part.  But she's going to be busy now with young T.J. there and won't be able to do it all either.  Especially the traveling.”  

“Exactly,”  Scott agreed  “We need someone else for this project and, if you agree Heyes, that would earn you a share. Then between Beth helping out where she can with financing and Jed, with you helping out with the breaking and handling of the youngsters that would certainly earn you an stake in this business.”

“Not only that Heyes; you are Karma's owner,”  Jesse continued, the fire of enthusiasm sparking his eyes.  “If it hadn't been for you allowing me to breed her to Pine Knot—twice!  we wouldn't all be standing here having this discussion."  "

Now, I know you already have your own business, but this shouldn’t be a full time job,” assured Scott.  “Think about it.  Also, I’d like to see Karma bred a couple of more times while she's still young enough.  It would help to establish consistency of the line, showing that Karma and therefore Ned will breed true every time.”

Heyes did think about it.  With a new baby on the way, the additional income would be welcomed.  He knew that with Miranda’s wealth they never had to worry about money, but it rankled to have his wife bring in more money than he did.  This was a chance for him to even the odds.  Something he always strove to do in poker as well as life.

Jesse watched his friend try the plan on for size and added, “Besides, Heyes, you and Randa are members of this family, too.  Don’t ever forget that.  Scott doesn’t know that it was you and Jed who gave us our new beginning.  That money you left for us years ago is what brought us here today.  The Double J wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t helped us.”  He turned to Scott, “I think this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership.  This was going to be a celebratory dinner tonight anyway and now we have even more to celebrate.  I’ve got a couple of bottles of good whiskey I’ve been saving.  What do you all say to having a drink to our new business?  Tomorrow  I’ll give you a tour of the rest of the ranch.  There’re a few mares I’d like you to see.  They might be perfect for our future plans.”

“The Double Chance,” Heyes murmured thoughtfully.

Three faces swung towards him and said in unison, “What?”

“The Double Chance.”  Heyes turned even more reflective as another thought struck him.  “You know, this could be of benefit with something else that Kenny suggested last time I spoke with him—ah, with your approval of course, Jesse.”

Jesse was curious now.  “What did you have in mind?”

“Kenny observed that all the 'employees'  for my investigation business are ex-outlaws, either pardoned or having done their time.  He thought it was a good way for some of the young fellas coming out of prison to get a leg up—support and a direction to go in rather than simply falling back onto old habits just to survive.  He said he's getting tired of seeing the same fellas coming back time after time.  If I was willing he would send some of these young men to me to help them straighten up their lives.  I was just thinking that those who don't have an aptitude for undercover work might be of help with the young horses.
“It'd be a risk though Jesse.  I'm sure Kenny will screen them thoroughly and only send us men who give promise and really do want a chance to get their lives straightened out.  But still you never know what they might do. Young Mr. Ames seems to have found his footing now with the help of good ole' Wheat's tough love tactics, but he did some damage before he got his head turned around.”

Jesse considered that for a moment; they would have a lot of money and fine animals on the line with this new venture and he wouldn't want to put that at high risk.

“Well, on paper it sounds like a real positive thing for you to be involved with Hannibal,”  he finally conceded.  “So let's consider a half way mark here.  If you let them work at your end for a while and they're okay and you think they would benefit from coming out here and helping with the horses then I'll consider it.  But I have final word on who would come out here and if I say they're not working out and they need to go, then they go.  Agreed?”

Heyes grinned as the feeling of finally belonging to something important and positive began to sink in.   “Completely agreed Jesse.  Thank you.”

Scott laughed.  “Well isn't all this just coming together.  “'The Second Chance' was started up and is still a home for young women in trouble to come to in order to get support and help in turning their lives around.  Now it's sounding like 'The Double J' is going to be offering the same opportunity for young men.  Allie's going to love this!”

“And that’s what we should call the new business; 'Double Chance Quarter Horses'.”  Heyes repeated with a smile over to his partner.  

Jed, who had remained quiet throughout this exchange grinned back at him, pleased to see Heyes finally becoming involved in something that truly mattered to him.

“I like it,” said Jesse, slapping Heyes on the back. 

“See, you’re a natural,” said Scott.

“It’d be nice to see that silver tongue do something besides get us in trouble,” Jed finally commented.

The four friends all shared a laugh as they walked to the house.


The fine dinner that evening was an unqualified success.  It was a full house too, which it why it ended up being more of a picnic type of meal rather than a more formal one at the indoor dinning table.  Much like at Jed and Beth's wedding, tables and chairs were brought out into the front yard and everyone enjoyed fire pit roasted beef with potato salad and fresh vegetables from the two gardens that Belle somewhere found the time to cultivate.

It was a boisterous and joyful gathering which included not only the Medgars as guests but also David and Tricia with their growing family and Joe and his young lady, Pansy whom he was now officially courting.  Of course Bridget and Steven had made the trip despite the extra work of bring two young children with them. But they had become practiced partners not only in Steven's law firm but also at parental crowd control.  Carl Jacobs was in attendance having taken the chance of leaving his two new young deputies in charge of the town for the evening.  Sam and his family were all in attendance and Ben, who had been officially taken under Belle's protective wing could not be left out.

Finally, with the summer sun still high enough to bring in a warm evening to the gathering, dessert with tea and coffee was winding down and the numerous children had run off to dispose of their final burst of energy for the day.

It was at this point that Jesse, with Sam's help brought out glasses and the whiskey bottles and got everyone set up to commemorate the reasons for such a fine dinner when no one was actually getting married.

Once all was prepared Jesse smiled as he noticed that all eyes were already upon him.

“Well, we had initially planned this dinner to celebrate the success of the assignment I had hired Hannibal to accomplish for me, and that of course was to track down the lineage of Karma so that our stud, Ned could have some real proof behind his quality and thereby making his foals more valuable.  I dare say that the outcome of that investigation has turned out to be far more prestigious than I would ever have dreamed.
“I also realize that the assignment itself turned into something far more than I had foreseen.  I would never have sent you boys on that mission if I'd known the dangers it would ultimately lead you in to.  Thank goodness you all got back safely.
“I also have it on good authority from Carl that the Mathison family, who have been making it their livelihood to rustle prime stock from numerous ranches throughout Wyoming and Colorado have been shut down.  The raid on their extremely well hidden stock yard was successful and the members of that gang taken into custody.”

“Oh thank goodness!”  came Allie's response from within the group.

"Nice to know that Morrison is good for something," Heyes mumbled as an aside to Jed.

Jed adamantly agreed.

Everyone laughed and agreed with the various comments even though most of them had no idea who Morrison was. A big cheer actually went up and Carl Jacobs received numerous pats on the back as though he personally had led the raid on the notorious rustling family.

“So,”  Jesse continued, raising his glass and bringing everyone to attention again.  “My first toast here this evening is to Hannibal, Jed and Joe.  Because of their endeavors, Ned has now joined the elite ranks of those few who qualify to stand as a foundation Quarter Horse sire with get that is already becoming in demand.  Thank you, boys. For not only being very successful on this quest, but more importantly; for making it home alive.”

“Here here!”

“Yeah!”

Glasses clinked and little sips were taken of the mighty fine whiskey, though most of the ladies just pretended to drink—aside from Allie that is.  All three ladies attached to the men in question also included sweet kisses and affectionate hugs to make the appreciation even more enjoyable.

“Next!”  Jesse called out in order to bring the chattering down and the attention back to him.  “The Medgars' have proposed what I believe could be a very exciting and profitable merging of our business interests.  This I did not see coming, not only in a very viable way for both our breeding programs to gain success and grow, but also in offering young men down on their luck an opportunity to find their footing and get headed in the right direction.
"Hannibal, the more I thought about it, the more I believe that this is your true calling.  It is in this endeavor where you will find your success and your accomplishments.  Along with Kenny Reece, I will do everything I can to support you in this very worthwhile path you now tread.  
"And there's poor Carl wondering what in the world is heading into his town now!”

Everyone laughed and Carl received another barrage of back slaps.

“But I digress!”  Jesse called them to order.  “My second toast here is to the new 'Double Chance Quarter Horses'! May it continued to build and bring success to this new friendship and this new partnership for both of our families!”

Another clinking of glasses and more tentative sips.

“Now, to you Hannibal,”  Jesse turned back to him.  “I love you like my own son and I know Belle does too.  And like a son you also drive us crazy with your silver tongue, your gambling and your reckless ways.  But you're growing in leaps and bounds.  All you needed was to be released from the starting gate and now nothing is going to slow you down.  You have no less than three different business on the go.  Each is connected inexorably with the other and yet each is going to be a challenge in its own right.
“Also you have something on a more personal matter to celebrate.  Miranda, you are a brave woman; giving this man children.  But I also know that you're up to the challenge.  Both of you have already shown your worth as parents to Sally, who I must admit has got to be one of the most extraordinary children I  have ever met.  Which is, I suppose; fitting.
“There is nothing more frustrating nor more rewarding than raising a family and personally I will enjoy nothing better than being able to sit back and watch it happen.  Congratulations to both of you.”

“Yeah!”

“Way to go, Heyes!”

“Congratulations Randa!”

More sips while Heyes and Miranda smiled with some embarrassment but lots of pleasure.  He hugged his wife close to him and again was hit with the overwhelming knowledge of how lucky he was to have landed in the midst of this wonderful family and to be surrounded by such good friends.

“Now, last but not least,”  Jesse turned with a loving smile to his two daughters and their respective husbands. “Bridget and Steven.  Another beautiful granddaughter!   Watching our family grow like this has brought no end of happiness and feelings of accomplishment to your mother and myself. I said it on the day of your wedding and I say it again now; You made a fine choice for your husband Bridget.  Steven is a wonderful husband to you and father to your children.  Nothing pleases a parent more than to see their children grow up and be happy.  
“Steven, along with being a wonderful son-in-law I also thank the stars that Bridget married a lawyer! You have brought so many good things to this family and now with these new business propositions coming along, we're going to need your expertise once again!  But all that aside; congratulations on the new addition to your family.”

Bridget was aglow with pleasure and Steven smiled and nodded his thanks to his father-in-law.

“Now, Beth and Jed.”  Jesse continued.  “Oh my!  How could two grandparents be more blessed.  Two beautiful granddaughters and now a strong and healthy grandson.  Belle and I could not have asked for more.  I know that last year was devastating for all of us, but for you two it was more so than for anyone else.  I know that the loss of that promise will never be forgotten but I also know that the arrival of little T.J. will help to ease that hurt.  You can rejoice now in the celebration of new life the way it was suppose to be.  You have a beautiful son.
“Jed, as with Hannibal; you were already a part of this family even before Beth made it official.  You treat my daughter with love and respect and for that I thank you.  I know you're both new at raising your own children, but I've watched both of you over the years in helping Belle with J.J. So I have no doubt of your qualifications.  You're going to do fine with your own children, of that I have no doubt.”

Another toast while Jed and Beth smiled their pleasure.  Jed hugged his wife and smiled down at his sleeping son.

“Oh one more thing before we get back to more dessert!”  Jesse announced.  Everybody teasingly groaned but settled down for the final toast.  “Jed and Hannibal.  You've both done amazing things in getting your lives turned around.  More than I thought would have been possible.  I have admitted to you both before, so this is hardly a revelation, that there were times when I lost faith.  When I just didn't think we were going to make it.  It took the ladies in my life; Belle, Bridget and Beth to shame me out of my pessimism and to re-focus my eye on the goal."

He raised his glass to his three ladies and everyone jumped on board, thinking that this was the end of it.

“No no, that's wasn't all of it!”  Jesse grinned, knowing he was driving his audience crazy.  More groans but again everyone settled.  “And now Hannibal, you also have your pardon.  I know it was a difficult and dangerous path for you to tread and your freedom has been hard earned.  But earned it is and rightly so.  You'll value it, I know.  You fought too hard and too long to receive it for you to take it lightly and not treat it with care.  You not only command respect for what you have accomplished but you deserve it.  I realize that that isn't a new position for you but this time it is an honourable position given to you freely by good people who truly care about you,”

Heyes couldn't believe how emotional these words made him feel, and how important they were coming from Jesse. He bit his lower lip trying to keep control but it was hard, especially when David, who had only heard rumours heard about the pardon but nothing official, came over to shake his hand.

“Congratulations Hannibal,”  the doctor said.  “Jesse's right; you worked hard for this and you've earned it. Good for you.”

“Thanks David,”  came out as a choked whisper and then he really thought he was going to lose it when Tricia came and gave him a big hug.  “I couldn't have done it without you folks.”

Then Sam was there and offered his hand as well.  “You have no idea how much this means to me as well,”  the young man admitted.  “I can't count how many sleepless nights I endured worrying about you and what my actions had caused.”

“Really Sam?”  Heyes was startled by this revelation.  “I told you years ago that it wasn't your fault.  You didn't chose the path we took.”

Sam shrugged and smiled.  “I know, but I still felt responsible.  I'm so glad that everything has worked out.   Really. For both of you.”

“Thanks.”
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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sat May 24, 2014 11:15 pm

In the background, Merle smiled to herself as pride in her son filled her heart.  He really had grown into a fine young man despite a difficult childhood.  She couldn't be more pleased with him.

More handshaking and back slapping took place as those who had know about the pardon came over to again offer their congratulations and good wishes and Heyes just couldn't stop grinning.

Finally Jesse took control again and everyone settled down to listen to what else the patriarch had to offer.
“Now back to both Jed and Hannibal, again.  You are not only members of this family, but partners in the new family business as well. I realize we have already given our toast to the new joint endeavour we are now embarking on, but I feel it's important to again acknowledge just how far our two ex-outlaws have come.
'May the years ahead give us all financial success and personal happiness.  There is no reason on God's green earth we cannot have both.”  He raised his glass for real and everyone else joined in.  “To the future!”

“To the future!”

“To the 'Double Chance'!”

Xxx


Sylvie excitedly bustled her way down the hallway in response the the door chime announcing the arrival of their guests.  It was still hot out even though summer was winding down so the solid front door was open leaving only the screen door to keep the insects and the uninvited company out.

“Welcome!  Welcome!”  Sylvie greeted the two couples who were standing on the porch. She unhinged the latch and opened the door.  “Come in; the Grangers' are expecting you.”

“Hello Sylvie,”  Jed greeted the housekeeper/nanny.  “Good to see you.”

“You're finally here!”  came Bridget's excited voice from the nursery area.  

Then the woman herself was hurrying down the hall to greet her family.  Beth screeched with joy and pushed past her husband to come into a loving embrace with her sister.

“Where is he?”  asked Bridget with her eyes alight.  “Where is my nephew!  I just have to meet him!”

Jed laughed as he picked up the bassinet and handed it to Beth.  Beth instantly set the bassinet down in the middle of the hallway and lovingly lifted her previously sleeping son out of it in order to show him off.

“Oh he's beautiful!”  Bridget exclaimed as Beth settled the infant into her sister's arms.  “What a little darling.”

Steven appeared out from his office at the other end of the hallway and came to join the welcoming committee.  “Hello Jed, Beth.  Tricia, David.  Good to see you all.”

Bridget looked up with a gasp.  “Oh my goodness!  I'm so sorry.  Tricia—how lovely to see you again.  And your own little daughter now too.  Where is Nathan?”

“We left him at home with my mother,”  Tricia explained.  “We could have left Eleanor as well but I didn't feel right leaving her for that long.”

“Come on in to the sitting room,”  Steven invited his guests.  “I'm sure you could do with some refreshment after your journey.”  He turned and nearly tripped over the toddler who was just learning to walk and putting it to good advantage.  She wanted to meet the guests as well.  “Oh, oops.  Come on my darling.”  Steven stooped down and picked up his eldest daughter.  “You going to say 'hello' to our guests?”

Rosie waved  her little hand and came out with a barely recognizable “'eyh.”  and then she giggled.

“Hello Rose,”  Beth returned her greeting and came forward to give her niece a kiss.  “Where's your little sister?”

“She's sleeping right now,”  Steven began but then stopped in mid-sentence as a not very pleased wail came from the nursery.  “Cancel that.  She was sleeping.”

“Oh dear,”  Bridget laughed.  “I'll go see to her.  Please everyone, relax.  Have a seat and we'll get some lunch going.”

Half an hour later Sylvie rolled in the tea caddy with steeping tea and freshly brewed coffee along with another platter full of tasty sandwiches and sweet breads.  All three mothers were cuddling their infants and keeping them entertained and hopefully quiet so the adults could visit.  The children all  had full tummy's and were settling in to nap time so at least for now the household was quiet.

“Were you able to find all the ingredients for the formula David?”  Bridget asked the doctor.

“Not everything no,”  David admitted.  “but I expect your doctor will know where I can find everything.”

Bridget rolled her eyes.  “He's such an old fuddy duddy.  Even if he does know where you can get those ingredients he probably won't tell you.  As far as he's concerned all new mothers should be chained to their infants and never be allowed to take a break.  Not fair to the child!  Well it's not fair to the parents to never be able to go out for an evening without having to worry.”

Steven rolled his eyes.  Obviously this had been an ongoing complaint from his wife.  But in some ways he had to agree; to have to turn down Hannibal's very generous gift of dinner at the Brown Palace and then an afternoon at the Tabor Grand Opera House because they had an infant would have been disappointing to say the least.  When David had assured everyone that he could mix up a formula to have on hand to calm the various infants if needed while the parents were away it had been like rose pedals drifting down on a spring breeze.

David smiled.  “I know the type,”  he assured his friends.  “Don't worry.  I have a good idea where to get the supplies without the help of the local doctor.  I'll have time before the symphony tomorrow to get it all organized.”  He smiled at Bridget.  “As well as something to help with your little issue.”

Bridget smiled shyly and sent a sidelong glance to her husband.  Steven pretended to ignore the exchange.

“This is going to be such a lovely outing,”  Tricia said.  “We'll have to do something special for Sylvie for being willing to take on this brood.”

“Don't be silly!”  came the reprimand from the hallway just as Sylvie came in with pastries for dessert.  “I'll be very pleased to look after the babies so you young parents can get a break.  They'll be fine with me.”

“Still, Sylvie,”  Beth insisted.  “It's very good of you.  Far and beyond your job expectations I'm sure.  I don't think I would have been willing to leave Thaddeus with anyone else—other than my own mother of course!”

Sylvie smiled with pleasure at the compliment.   “Why thank you Mrs. Curry.  That's very kind of you.  And don't you worry; your darling little boy will be just fine with me.”

Sylvie made her exit to put on more tea as Steven gave Jed a slap on the knee.

“So, how's life for the new father?”  he asked his brother-in-law.

Jed smiled.  “I think I'm gettin' the hang of this,”  he admitted.  “He's sure been a good baby; I hardly hear him during the night.”

“That's because you're not a mother,”  Beth teased him.  “He's getting me up at least three times a night for feeding.  But I agree; he is a good baby.”

“Three times a night?”  Jed was incredulous.  “How come I don't hear him?”

“Because you're not a mother!”  came back the chorus of three.

“Aw, c'mon!”  Jed complained.  “I got ears like a cat.  I've spent the last twenty years sleeping with one eye AND ear open for trouble.  I'm the one who usually wakes Heyes up cause I heard somethin' comin'!”

“Doesn't matter,”  Bridget teased her friend.  “No one has ears like a mother.”

Jed looked around at his male companions.  “C'mon guys, where's my back up here?”

“Nope,”  Steven shook his head.

“Don't look my way,”  David put in.  “I have to agree with Beth on this one Jed.  Haven't you noticed how Belle always seems to know what's going on in that house?”

Jed contemplated that.  “Yeah, I guess you got a point there.  When I got injured back...you know; when I got...well she just always seemed to know when I was awake or when I needed something.  Even then I kinda' marvelled at it.  She just seemed to know.”

Beth and Bridget smiled knowingly at each other.  It had always been a thorn in their sides that they had never been able to get away with anything.  Now they were beginning to understand.

“So,”  Bridget changed the subject.  “when are we going to be seeing Hannibal and Miranda?”

David and Jed passed a humourous glance between them.  

“Ahh, probably tonight for dinner,”  Jed informed them.  “As for right now?  I think they have officially started their honeymoon.”

xxx

When Miranda and Hannibal entered the front lobby of the Brown Palace on Tremont Street, both were amazed into silence by the sheer beauty and elegance of the brand new luxury hotel.  Just the act of entering the front doors made one feel like they were walking into a dream scape where time and reality were put on hold.   Heyes heard his wife gasp in astonishment and even he had to admit to a moment of over-whelming awe.

They stopped in the large lobby simply to gaze upon the elegance.  The young porter who was following them with their luggage stopped right behind them and waited patiently.  Though the hotel had not even been open a full month yet, most of the employees were becoming accustomed to the effect Denver's new pride and joy had on its visitors.

Finally the couple began to walk towards the registration desk, but even this was done slowly and with reverence, not wanting to make any unnecessary noise to insult the presence of polished Mexican onyx that adorned the lobby and was also inlaid in the tiling they tread upon.  Even loud voices were hushed by the surroundings of fine thick carpeting complimented by panellings of polished cherry wood and high windows accented by opulent Irish Point draperies.  

The first floor of the open atrium seemed to glitter with terracotta and polished antique oak with furniture of white mahogany placed strategically around the open area, inviting guests to come and sit and enjoy an afternoon tea or an evening's dessert.  All eight floors were clearly visible, wrapping themselves around the parameter with balconies surrounded by intricate cast iron railings and ornate grillwork panels.

The couple were drawn into the atrium and stood gazing upwards at all the levels, trying to take in the spectacular engravings and ironwork and paintings but their senses couldn't even come close to processing it all at once.  They circled around, trying to take it in until they both bumped into the other and then coming into a hug, they started to laugh.

“This is amazing!”  Miranda exclaimed, then cringed at her loud voice.  This place demanded respect.

“I can't believe it,”  Hannibal agreed.  “I've never seen anything like this.  Soapy was right.”

“Soapy?”

“An old friend,”  her husband explained.  “I would never have been able to get reservations if he hadn't put in a good word.”

“Really?”  Randa teased.  “Another 'old friend'.  Do I ever get to meet this one or will he be remaining a shrouded ghost from your past?”

Heyes smiled and hugged her close.  “I do believe he has insisted that Jed and I come to visit after the opera tomorrow.  He wants to meet you all.”

“Then why wasn't he at your trials or write to you in prison?”  Miranda asked with a sly smile as they headed over towards the registration desk.  “Why didn't he come to our weddings?”

“Oh now, Sweet,”  Heyes whispered back.  “I think you already know the answer to that one.”

They stopped at the cherry wood counter and the rather high-end clerk on the other side smiled a greeting to them.

“Good afternoon sir and madam,” he said with a touch of sophistication.  “how may I help you?”

Heyes gave his most charming smile back. “The name is Heyes, Hannibal Heyes.  And we have a reservation for three nights.”

The clerk hardly missed a beat at the name.  “Of course,”  he smiled as he checked the register and his smile broadened as he came upon the name.  “Here you are.  It is a lovely suite right on the top floor with a beautiful view of the Rockies for your enjoyment.  You will be pleased to know that you and your lovely wife will be our first guests to stay in this particular suite so to commemorate this auspicious occasion please allow the Brown Palace to present you with a fine champagne breakfast for the morning.  To be delivered right to your suite at your convenience.”

“Oh,”  Heyes' charming smile broadened.  “That would be very nice, thank you.”

The clerk swivelled the registration book around for him to sign.  “If you would please sign the registration ledger and then Mr. Hewitt here will escort you up to your suite.”  And he handed the key to the young man standing patiently behind their guests.  “If there is anything you require, Mr. Hewitt is the man to ask.”  

“Of course,”  Heyes agreed as he dipped the pen into the ink jar.  He smiled to himself as he thought about all those other times he'd been forced to sign in and sign out as a condition of his parole.  He simply felt elated now at his sudden change of fortune and signing in on this registry was a welcome step up.  “Ah, we also have reservations for dinner.  There will be four couples coming.”

“Yes, of course Mr. Heyes.  Your reservations are for eight o'clock and you will find the restaurant located on the eight floor.  I'm sure you will find it to your enjoyment.  Other than your complimentary breakfast, your other two breakfasts, if you chose to have them here at the hotel, can be taken privately in your suite or you may take advantage of our three other restaurants  or the tea room here on the ground floor.  All these establishments offer the finest cuisine and will contribute to make your stay with us a pleasant and memorable one.”

“Thank you,”  Heyes nodded.  “I'm sure they will.”

Miranda was trying very hard not to giggle as she leaned in to her husband's arm but now as they were preparing to leave she straightened up and gained control.  

She smiled winningly at the gentlemen behind the fine counter.  “Yes, thank you very much,”  she said to him.  “Have a lovely afternoon.”

“And to you madam.”


Walking along the lushly carpeted hallway towards their room,  Randa ran her hand along the wrought iron railing and couldn't help but gaze over the edge and look down to the ground floor of the atrium.  Her heart beat quickened with the thrill of it and she grabbed her husband's sleeve just as the porter was unlocking the door to their suite.

“Look Hannibal!”  she whispered excitedly.  “Look at this view.”

Heyes stepped to the railing and gazed down.  He blew out his breath in admiration.  “Just like standing on top of a train trestle that's been loaded up with dynamite.”  And he smiled cheekily.

“Oh you!”  Miranda laughed and gave him a playful slap.  “The outlaw is never far away, is he?”

The porter did his best to ignore the strange comments as he opened the door and rolled their luggage into the suite alcove.  Heyes slipped his arm around his wife's waist and escorted her into their honeymoon abode.  Miranda gasped yet again as she looked around but Heyes had other matters to attend to before allowing himself the pleasure.

He took the key from Mr. Hewitt and then discreetly handed the young man a fine tip.  Mr. Hewitt smiled and nodded his thanks, then quietly backed out the door and closed it.  Then Heyes turned to take in his new surroundings.

The sitting room was amazing.  Ceiling high windows did indeed look out upon the Rocky Mountains as well as giving them a beautiful bird's eye view of the city itself.  Miranda walked around, and being a tactile person, ran her hands over every surface she could find.

“These curtains and the carpet both look like they come from Brussels,”  she exclaimed.  “Oh, I could just take my shoes off and run barefoot over them, they are so lush.”  She headed over and sat into a large armchair with the intentions of doing just that when once again her eyes bugged and her mouth gaped.  “Hannibal, this sofa is covered in silk!  Oh come on, you must sit in this!”

“Oh, I'm fine right here,”  he said with a playful smile as he watched his wife explore their surroundings.

Randa beamed at him as she leaned down to unstrap her shoe and slip it off her foot.  She reached up under her summer dress to unhook the stocking and pulled it off as well.  Then she leaned back into the silk upholstery and with eyes closed she sensually rubbed her bare foot into the plush carpeting.  She sighed with contentment.

“Ohh,”  she groaned.  “you wouldn't believe how wonderful this feels.”

Heyes' smile grew broader.  “Yes I would.”

Miranda giggled as she continued to caress the carpet with her foot until Heyes couldn't stand it anymore.  He pushed himself off the door and coming over, he knelt down in front of her and  gently picked up her other foot.  He rested the foot into his lap and unbuckling the straps on this shoe, he pulled it off and then sliding his hand up his wife's thigh he found the hooks for the stocking and set the flimsy material free.

He slid the stocking down and gently pulled it off her foot as she smiled at him and bringing her other foot up onto his lap, she playfully caressed his leg.  Heyes turned his warm brown eyes up to her as he gently placed her big toe into his mouth and began to softly suck on it.  She drew in a breath and let it out with a moan as her other foot stopped caressing his leg and moved in between his thighs.  She rubbed her foot up and down, stroking him and feeling his arousal take hold.

With his breathing quickening, he released her toe and moved in to hug her close.  “And here I was just about to suggest we go for lunch,”  he whispered.

“Dinner isn't until eight,”  Miranda breathed into his ear.  “I think that a late lunch would be entirely appropriate.”

xxx


Seven thirty found the honeymooners making their way down to the lobby in order to meet up with their friends.  Heyes was wearing a lighter suit than his usual charcoal gray as befitting the season of the year.  Miranda also adorned herself with a soft emerald green summer evening gown that presented her as both fresh and elegant.  It also produced the desired effect of taking her husband's breath away.

Upon reaching the lobby both of them smiled at the sight of their friends standing in the atrium and opening gawping at their amazing surroundings.  Though Steven and Bridget had come for an afternoon tea within days of the hotel opening its doors, they were still caught up in the excitement of being here again.  And this time it was to enjoy dinner with their friends up on the top floor, in a restaurant that had had nothing but rave reviews.  Everyone was anticipating a wonderful evening.

“What do you think, partner?”  Heyes asked his cousin who couldn't seem to pull his blue eyes away from the ceiling that was so many stories above them.

“Wow.”  Jed stepped forward and ended up walking right into his cousin before he realized that he had to pull his eyes away from the fresco paintings in order to watch where he was going.  “We're actually going to be eating up there?”

“Yeah,”  said Heyes.  “If you don't wind up breaking my leg first.”

“Yeah,”  Jed murmured, totally unaware of what Heyes had said.  “This is amazing.”


Twenty minutes later the party of eight were being shown to their reservation by the host..  They all settled around a large linen covered table by one of the many tall windows that encircled the whole restaurant, giving its patrons an amazing panoramic view of the Colorado Rockies in all their summer glory.

“Jeez,”  the Kid mumbled.  “all the times we were galloping through that pile of rocks with a posse on our tail, who'd 'a thought we'd ever be lookin' at 'em from this side.”

“Yeah,”  Heyes agreed emphatically.

Their host discreetly ignored the comments; it was not his job to question the ethics of their guests.

“Welcome sirs and madams,”  he greeted them with a haughty little bow.  “Enjoy your meal.  Your waiter will be with you shortly but please, take your time to browse through the menu.  Our chefs are the best Colorado has to offer, indeed many of them have come here all the way from Europe for the honour of indulging in their crafts here at the Brown Palace.  Any questions you might have do not hesitate to ask your waiter.”

“Thank you,”  Heyes responded respectfully and everyone else nodded their understanding.

Far from looking at the menus that had been handed out, Beth was still mesmerized by the view.  Her sister couldn't believe the silk covered arm chairs they were all seated in, and Miranda was busy looking at the bottoms of the china wear.

“Oh my goodness,”  she gasped.  “this china is all Royal Doulton!”

“Is that good?”  Jed asked.

Steven and David both grinned but Heyes looked just as perplexed as his cousin.

“I'll say,”  Miranda informed them with awe in her voice.  “It is one of the finest china's available.  This set alone is worth hundreds of dollars.

Jed swallowed and put the saucer back on the table.  “And we're suppose to eat off'a this?”

Heyes grinned as Randa next picked up the little butter knife and gasped again.

“This silverware!”  she exclaimed   “I'm sure it must be Reed's.  They have certainly spared no expense at this hotel.”

“How do you know all this?”  Bridget asked her.  “I realize that you and your first husband travelled a lot, but did you always stay in such luxurious surroundings?”

Heyes felt a slight twinge of jealously, but smiled as Randa found his hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“No, not always,”  she answered with a smile.  “but often enough.  William's business trips often took us to high class locations, simply because everyone had to look impressive and successful to potential clients.”  she sighed.  “Those meetings could get awfully boring after awhile.  And believe me, luxurious surroundings don't make that any easier to tolerate.  But tonight, I'm here on my honeymoon with the man I love and we're surrounded by good friends.   This is fun!”

“Yes, thank you for this Hannibal—and Miranda,”  David commented.  “Ever since Henry Brown and Frank Edbrooke began building this hotel back in '88  I was hoping that one day we would be able to get here.  Even then everyone knew it was going to be special.  This is a rare treat indeed.”

“The pleasure is mine,”  Heyes responded.  “You have no idea how important this is to me and I thank you all for coming.”

“I wouldn't have missed this for the world!”  Steven announced.

“Good evening sirs and madams,”  the waiter greeted his guest.  “May I begin your experience with us by suggesting a very lovely wine to start.  We had it imported from France especially for the opening of the Palace Hotel.....”

xxxx


The complimentary breakfast that arrived at the Heyes' suite at 8:30 the following morning was yet another new experience for Hannibal.  Miranda enjoyed showing him the way around the three course breakfast and he greatly enjoyed letting her show him.  She started off by pouring them both tall cool glasses of sparkling champagne which made them giggle with the tickling of noses.  

Next came fresh fruit and Hannibal relished the flavour of dipping the bit size pieces of fruit into the champagne before plopping it into his mouth and instantly reaching over to kiss his wife.  Laughter at this antic caused much of the champagne to wind up on their laps rather than down their throats—but it was their honeymoon dagnabbit!

Next, Miranda removed the lid on a platter of thin light crapes and Heyes was definitely confused now.  Awfully thin pancakes for such a posh hotel.  Randa giggled and dribbling lemon juice and then sprinkling sugar on one thin crape, she rolled it up and held it to her husband's lips for him to take a bite.  He smiled and obliged her and then his eyes popped open in surprise at the amazing flavours that attack his palette.  She handed him his glass of champagne, and taking a sip of that he couldn't believe how all the flavours exploded in his mouth and he was a goner.

Hannibal happily helped himself to crapes after that, allowing Miranda to prepare her own and together they polished off the platter far too quickly.  But they weren't done yet.  Miranda moved on to the next platter and removing the lid she revealed two servings of steaming eggs benedict.  Again, Hannibal wasn't too sure what to do with it.  What was that yellow stuff all over it?  One bite and he was in heaven.  

Then he noticed the coffee carafe. Champagne was interesting for breakfast, but coffee was a necessity. He poured out two cups and picking up the cream jug and tipping it to pour he found himself once again surprised at this new experience.  Nothing was coming out of it.  With furrowed brow he looked inside the jug and found that indeed there was cream there but it was so thick and rich that waiting for it to pour would take the rest of the morning.  A spoon was quickly brought into play and breakfast was complete.

Mr. Hewitt was summoned and along with a healthy tip and appreciations to the chef, he quickly removed the breakfast caddy from the suite and discreetly closed the door on the giggling couple.  They still had a few hours to kill before meeting up with everyone in the lobby for lunch but they had no trouble finding a way to pass the time.


At noon the romancing couple, looking fresh and happy arrived in the lobby to discover that their friends had chosen not to wait for them.  They had allowed themselves to be shown to a large table in the open and spacious tea room and were sitting and enjoying their surroundings as Hannibal and Miranda were escorted to the table.

“Ah, the love birds finally made it,”  Jed teased his cousin.  “We were almost getting ready to start lunch without you.”

Heyes grinned and accepted the ribbing as power for the course.  Then his grin turned into an honest smile as he noticed the addition to the group.

“Allie, Scott!  You made it.  You actually got tickets?”

“Yes!”  Allie exclaimed, all alight with excitement.  “I couldn't  believe it.  The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Hans Richter and we actually managed to get tickets on short notice.  This is going to be so much fun!”

Both Jed and Scott rolled their eyes in the same instant causing everyone else at the table to break out laughing.

Lunch soon arrived without anyone having to order it.  Apparently a different lunch was offered up every day of the week and if one didn't happen to like the selection for that particular day, well there were still three other restaurants in the hotel for their choosing.  As it was everyone at this table offered up no complaints.

Two elegant and elaborately designed platters arrived at their table, both laden with chilled smoked salmon (goodness knows where they got it from), covered with sliced onion and black capers.  Two smaller platters each with a healthy helping of creamed cheese arrived next followed by a selection of biscuits, crackers and warm freshly baked bread.

The recommended wine turned out to be a pleasant white with a light and crispy texture and a very refreshing fruity after taste.  More than one bottle made the rounds during that wonderful meal.

“Were you able to get seating with us?”  Heyes picked up the conversation from where it had been left off when the food arrived.

“No, not quite that fortunate I'm afraid,”  Scott admitted.  “Though we're not that far from you.  I thought we could all meet up again for supper afterwards if that suits.”

“Hmm,”  Heyes thought about that.  “What do you think Jed?  Will Soapy notice if we arrive a day later than planned?”

“I doubt it,”  Jed assured him.  “From what old Charles says, the old conman can't keep track of time anyways.  I think he'll just be happy to see us whenever we show up.  As long as Bridget and Steven don't mind us stayin' on at their place another day”

“Of course that's fine!”  Bridget insisted. “I get so little time with my sister now that it would be great to have to stay on one more night.”

“And our train south isn't leaving until the day after tomorrow anyway, so it works for us,”  Heyes commented.  “Everyone else in agreement?  Meet up for supper after the symphony?”

Everyone nodded in agreement with that, except for Beth who displayed a certain amount of concern.

“I don't know,”  she said.  “I'm already worried about leaving little Thaddeus just for the afternoon, but into the evening as well....?”

“Oh good heavens!”  Bridget exclaimed.  “Sure can tell you're a new mother.  Believe me, he'll be fine. Sylvie will take excellent care of them.”

“Well....”

“Don't worry about him Beth,”  Tricia assured her.  “They all seemed to just love the formula that David mixed up for them.  If any of them get restless I'm sure a tummy full of that will settle them again.”

Beth looked across at David and he sent her a reassuring smile.  “It's only natural with him being your first that you'd be concerned,”  he told her.  “but there's really no need.  He'll be fine.”

She smiled and nodded.  “Okay.”

“Now what about this friend you're going to visit?”  Bridget asked with a sceptically raised eyebrow.  “Just what kind of a name is 'Soapy'?  Do we need to be concerned about this Hannibal?”

“Concerned?”  Hannibal asked after a sip of wine.  “Concerned about what?”

“Well am I mistaken in assuming that he is from your,”  she lowered her voice conspiratorially,  “sordid past?”

“Oh.”  Suddenly Heyes was looking concerned too.  “Oh dear.  I hadn't even thought of that.  We've known Soapy for so long.  What do you think Steven?  Will visiting an old friend end up causing problems with my pardon?”

“Well, it depends,”  Steven admitted.  “How long since his last 'job'?”

Hannibal and Jed exchanged looks.  They both shrugged.

“Ahh, jeez.  At least twenty years.”  Heyes guesstimated.

Jed nodded agreement.  “Yeah, at least.  Maybe even more.”

“So he's retired now?”  Steven asked.  “Living a quiet life?”

“Yeah, very,”  Heyes assured him.  “More like reclusive than quiet I'd say.  Old fellow just doesn't get out anymore, otherwise he'd be joining us here for lunch.”

Steven nodded.  “I think a quick visit would be fine.  It would be different if you were still on parole, but with the pardon I don't see a problem with it.  It's not like you're getting together with him to plan a new job or anything.”

Both Heyes and Jed chuckled over that.  

“No, that's not too likely,”  Heyes conceded with just a touch of disappointment in his tone.  “So, anyone else going to be staying over tomorrow night as well?”

“No, not us,”  Scott put in.  “We've been away from the ranch quite a lot lately.  Time to get back down to business.”

“That's for sure!”  Allie agreed with her husband.  “This was a nice unexpected treat but we do have to get back.”

Heyes nodded in understanding.  “How about you David?  You and Tricia going to stay on?''

“No, we'll be heading for home in the morning as well,”  David told his friends.  “I do have a practice to run after all.”

“It's been wonderful though, Hannibal,”  Tricia smiled at him.  “Thank you so much for this.  And we haven't even gotten to the best part yet.”

“Yes, it's been a lovely outing.  And this on top of a fine new horse!”  David smiled.  “I'm beginning to think you might actually be starting to like me.”

Heyes chuckled.  “I suppose you do kind'a grow on a person after a while David.”

“Well that vote is still kind'a wavering for me,”  Jed contradicted.  “Considerin' how many times that man has hurt me, and cut me!  Not to mention all the pokin' and proddin'....”

“Tell me about it!!”  came a chorus from four of the ladies at the table.

“He's such a pest!”

“Won't leave you alone!”

“Nag nag nag, never stops!”

Heyes grinned in appreciation of the complaints and Allie and Scott laughed at the gentle teasing the medical man was receiving from his friends.  Even David started to chuckle, knowing it was all meant good heartedly and also knowing that every word was true!  

Then Heyes surprised everyone by raising his glass in a spontaneous toast.  “To good friends,”  he said.  “Thank you all for coming.”

“To good friends.”

xxx


As wonderful and amazing as their journey through the Brown Palace was, that following afternoon's outing to the Tabor Grand Opera House was just as awe-inspiring.

Horse drawn carriages were taking their turn at pulling up to the grand entrance way to allow their passengers to disembark.  Drivers would quickly move their horses on to make room for the next line of vehicles as more and more people all dressed in their fine afternoon suits and summer gowns made their way up the steps and through the grand archways.

The entry way itself was made up of fine marble stone and once again, polished red cherry wood adorned the walls and beautiful lush carpeting helped to cushion the sound of so many feet entering or exiting the impressive auditorium at the same time.  Allowing the eyes to follow the red wood up towards the high ceiling one was treated to an exquisitely painted domed roof with a large, grand chandelier hanging high above the parquet floor.

Not that light from the chandelier would be needed for this late afternoon concert.  There were so many large stained glass windows encircling the parameter that natural light coming in from outside would be more than enough to view the orchestra.

Everyone was hushed into respectful murmuring as people made their way to their seats in preparation for the event to begin.  Musicians down on the floor could be heard warming up and tuning their instruments as the friends found their way to their seats and settled in.  Beth rubbed her hands appreciatively along the arms of her chair and then leaned over to her sister.

“It's velvet!”  she exclaimed in a stage whisper.  “All the seats are covered in velvet.”

“Yes,”  Bridget agreed.  “Did you ever think we'd see the day?”

“No,”  Beth giggled.  “Just wait until I tell Mama.”

Heyes had a hold of Miranda's hand as he followed David and Tricia along their row of seats and then settled into the plush velvet just as Jed and Beth had done and then Bridget and Steven.

Miranda leaned into her husband and laid a hand on his arm.  “Hannibal, why are you shaking?”  she whispered.

Heyes just shook his head.  “It's alright.  I've just been looking forward to this moment for so long.”

Miranda smiled and squeeze his arm.  “I hope it lives up to all your expectations.”

Heyes simply nodded.  His heart was in his throat and he couldn't answer her.  He gazed around him in total awe of his surroundings, hardly daring to believe that he was actually here.  His eyes drifted upwards to again take in the painted dome ceiling and that incredibly grand chandelier and his ears drank in the simple sounds of string instruments coming to life and getting prepared for the performance.  Simple as it was, the sound of those uncoordinated notes was like heaven to his ears.  The acoustics in here were amazing and along with the 8th symphony of Anton Bruckner, he was going to be hearing music from his favourite composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky in a way that he had never experienced before.

He took in a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm down his racing heart so he could stop shaking but he didn't seem to have much luck with it.  Pulling his eyes down from the ceiling, he looked to his left and saw David speaking quietly with Tricia.  Their eyes met for an instant and David smiled at him.  Heyes sent a nervous smile back then looked to his right.  

There was Jed quietly sitting on the other side of Miranda while his own wife, Beth was talking quietly but animatedly with her sister.  Of everyone here Jed seemed the least concerned.  He was looking forward to the performance mainly because he knew how important it was to his cousin and he didn't mind keeping an open mind.  Not to mention the food had been well worth any torture he might have to endure here.  As far as he was concerned most of Tchaikovsky's music sounded more like a cat with its tail in a grinder than anything you might want to dance to.

Heyes actually found himself smiling as he took in the excited expression on Bridget's face while she chatted with her sister.  The two young ladies had no idea what to expect here today, but just the simple fact that it was so outside their normal lives and was so full of luxury and opulence was enough to make this trip to Denver a special one.

Heyes' smile deepened as his gaze moved on to lite on Steven.  The lawyer was sitting back in the plush seat with his eyes closed and his fingers steepled  under his chin.  There was a soft smile upon his lips as he too took in the fine cords of the instruments warming up and Heyes found himself relaxing just a little bit at seeing Steven so in tune with his surroundings.

Movement caught his eye a little more to the right and down about five rows.  Allie had spotted them and was energetically waving at them.  Heyes smiled at Scott covering his eyes and shaking his head in mock embarrassment at his wife's antics and Heyes couldn't help a soft chuckle.  Miranda looked a question at him and Hannibal nodded towards the couple down below.  Randa smiled and both she and her husband sent a wave back down to them.

Then there was a definite change in the atmosphere of the auditorium.  All eyes turned expectantly to the members of the orchestra who had finished warming up and were now settling into chairs and clearing throats as though preparing for an opera rather than a symphony.  There was a moment of quiet anticipation until a lone man dressed elegantly in tie and tails walked out onto the stage and mounted the podium.  He turned to his audience with wand in hand and gave a very elaborate bow in greeting.

The auditorium came alive with clapping and cheers for the renowned conductor and he stood and soaked up the adulation as any true creative narcissist would.  He stood until the audience quieted down and then gave the assembly a nod of thanks.  He then turned and bowed to his orchestra members and they all stood up and bowed back.  Then with the formalities over, they settled in again and prepared for the first notes to spring forth.

Hans Richter tapped the stand in front of him three times, raised his arms and with a great rush of anticipation, the world was suddenly filled with the opening notes of Pyotr Ilyich Tachaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.  Heyes was lost in the music as soon as the first cords came to his ears.  He sat deep in the plush velvet seat where he was surrounded by his friends and closing his eyes he was instantly transported back to a different time and a different place.

A smile came to his lips and a small tear almost, but not quite played about the corner of his eye.  He sighed deeply as the music played around him and within him while sadness and great happiness swirled around each other inside his heart.  He felt his wife take his hand and squeeze it gently.  His smile deepened as he returned the embrace and he instantly felt his heart rate settle down and he breathing become quiet as the music over-whelmed his consciousness and he was back sitting in the prison chapel listening to the glorious notes on a cranky old music box.

And he remembered.


THE END


Author's note; I took a little bit of liberty with the Vienna Philharmonic.  They did go on a tour in 1892 with long standing conductor Hans Richter, and the main attraction on the venue was Anton Bruckner's 8th Symphony.  But I could not find a list of the countries or cities where the orchestra actually visited.  Denver and the very impressive Tabor Grand Opera House didn't seem too much of a stretch so I just made sure they stopped there.  Had to include some scores by Tchaikovsky as he was one of Heyes' favourites, so there you have it.

We've all heard of the Brown Palace Hotel of course and despite that fact that Huggins played with the time line by having Heyes mentioning the luxury hotel when he and Jed first met the Jordans', I chose to ignore that earlier remark and be true to actually history.  The fact that The Brown Palace did indeed first open it's doors on August 12, 1892 just fit too nicely into my own story line that it could not be ignored.



I also want to take this moment to thank everyone of you who have been true and loyal to my (our) story right from start to finish.  Your comments at the end of each chapter did wonders to encourage me to continue on and also helped me to know when I was on the right track, or getting a little too far off and needed to re-think.  Your input as the readers did more than you know in some cases to help guide the story-line and keep things true.  

It's been quite an adventure and a lot of personal life has happened for me since I first wrote those words;

 'It was a beautiful Spring day when Heyes and the Kid found themselves back in Wyoming yet again, hoping that nobody in this small town was going to recognize them.  ‘In all the trains and banks they’d robbed, they never shot anyone.’  Yeah, right.  Well that didn’t mean that anyone wasn’t going to shoot them!'



Things are going well and I hope to get back to writing more in this story line once I take care of some other things that have been put on hold while getting this story up and posted.  Don't worry I'm not done with our boys yet, or their growing families!  Just taking a break.

I also want to thank Silverkelpie for co-writing 'Ghosts' with me, and for initially allowing me to take advantage of her beloved and infuriating character Abi.  We both had a lot of fun writing that story. Even though we have stayed true to the TOF story line, bringing in a co-writer cannot help but change the flavour and add new dimensions to what was already a well established universe.  SK's knowledge of science and law and women's issues in the late 1880's, not to mention her unflappable main character did much to add intrigue and authenticity to the trilogy.  And let's face it; nobody writes a mystery like Sarah Whyment.  

Next I want to thank InsideOutlaw.  She had a pretty good idea by this time of what she'd be getting into co-writing a story with me, yet she courageously jumped in with both feet.  I loved the idea of bringing in Allie as yet another one of Hannibal's feisty ex-girlfriends to keep our beloved ex-outlaw off balance.  Then of course the happy (Twist of Fate?) coincidence of Karma being Fannie's first foal and that a good and generous deed came around full circle and she ended up being so much more to Heyes than just 'another horse',

I'm sure it's very apparent in 'The Lineage' that InsideOutlaw and I share a passion for horses but her research and knowledge of the old time Quarter Horse foundation stallions brought authenticity and credibility in establishing an impressive background for our equine princess.   Of course she's special!

Also InOut's personal knowledge of the towns and cities and the landmarks of Colorado and Wyoming during the time of our tale, made the boys' cross-country pursuit all the more exciting and authentic. And again, her knowledge of the Wyoming Stock Grower's Asst. and the unrest that ultimately let to the Johnston County War also brought historical interests and accuracy to the boys' involvement  with that particular group of very powerful landowners.

I count myself to be very fortunate with the ladies who choose to commit so much of their time and energy and talents into joining me on this incredible journey.  I've heard of other writers who attempt to co-write a story with someone else and though there are some who succeed at it, many do not. Conflicts arise, or one gets bored and doesn't want to do it anymore or real life just simply gets in the way.

But I not only lucked out with two very talented co-writers who's contributions enhanced my story far beyond where I could have taken it on my own, I also formed two very rewarding friendships.  Who would have thought it? Three ladies from three different countries came together through the ASJ universe to bring fun and laughter in the good times and support and encouragement when things got tough.  What else could you ask for in a friend?

Thank you ladies.  I take my cowboy hat off to you.  One of these days we'll get together and share a very nice bottle of wine, and lunch of course, in real life.   In the meantime, have a virtual glass of Pino Gregio on me.


A.K.B.


Last edited by Keays on Sun May 25, 2014 12:27 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sun May 25, 2014 9:36 am

I couldn't wait to read this, but now I'm feeling kinda sad because it's over.  I have so enjoyed this story and the final note (no pun intended) was just perfect.  I loved the introduction of little T.J. and it was wonderful to see them all settling down to a normal life at long last.  I love the idea of you revisiting this universe with ad hoc little tales, and there is still much to tell, so we have much to look forward to.  Thanks for your kind words, Keays.  I loved writing with you and would do it again in a heartbeat.  I'll take you up on that offer of lunch.  I retire in February so will be visiting the states next spring.  In the meantime I'm chilling that virtual Pino Grigio for tonight's chat.  Cheers Keays and InsideOutlaw.  It was a great ride, and you kept me gripped every step of the way.   applause

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PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Sun May 25, 2014 11:05 am

Thanks SK. It's not a nice day here yet and a bunch of us have plans to ride tomorrow anyway so I expect to be on chat today. Then I have to buckle down and get some studying done.

I am already going through withdrawal! It is going to be hard to stay away from my fantasy universe after having lived there for so long, but as I said; I will be back in smaller doses LOL!

I'll be bringing a chilled glass of dry Riesling to chat myself.
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PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:29 pm

What a beautiful ending to this story. Even though I wish there were still many more chapters to go through.
Jed and Beth return to the Double J and we discover that live has moved on there; Sam has been promoted and a new young helper is working in the barn and getting taken in by Belle and Jesse; another circle closed.
Of course we had to experience the birth of Kid's child. I knew it would be a boy; had to be, so he can get up to all kinds of mischief in the future with Heyes's son. Was it really customary for so many people to descend on a household while a child is born? (I really have no idea, never having been interested in children myself) It seemed kind of hard on Belle, to have a house full of people while helping her daughter with the birth. I enjoyed the comic relief during the birth: not only nervous father-to-be, but equally nervous uncle-to-be, Jed getting his hand crushed by Beth, Jed asking for painkiller and Beth not allowing it.
Best line was: "...Miranda you didn't just marry a man, you married a symbiotic relationship...."
I liked that you linked back to the beginning of the trilogy through Sam's musings on seeing Jed on the porch with his son in his arms. A similar picture, but a world of difference.
Then we get a glimpse of the future through the Medlars' visit and the proposal of a 4-people-partnership. Heyes picks the perfect name "Double Chance". It was interesting to get this insight into horse breeding and development of the Quarter Horse breed. How fantastic that Karma is now papered. Heyes must breed her again. I guess Daisy will also be interesting for the future breeding program, being a full sister to Ned.
It sure looks like Heyes will be busy in the future, but I am wondering what the 3rd business is (Detective Agency, Double Chance,?).
Kenny's idea of selecting suitable inmates and sending them to Heyes for re-introduction to society seems to be taking on shape. So Heyes will have his detective work to keep his mind busy, the horse breeding for his heart's content and by simultaneously helping ex-cons he gives back to society, and will be a new form of leader again. He's a lucky man to be able to work at things he is good at and loves.
I think I liked the ending best of all. Heyes and Miranda starting their honeymoon in the luxurious Brown Palace. It was heart-warming to see Heyes fully back in control of his life, treating his wife to the best available, and then both of them behaving like lovesick youngsters, happy and carefree. Lovely scenes at the meals. Best toast: "To Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two best friends a girl could have."
Thank you for bringing up Soapy. He was kind of missing from this universe, although he lives in Denver. But at least we get a glimpse that the boys are still in contact with him and will visit him.
The crowning highlight is the visit to the concert. Heyes' dream from prison comes true: Hearing Tchaikovsky performed by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra in a building designed for concerts. It rings so true and real how you describe his reaction to the music, closing his eyes, letting his consciousness get overwhelmed by the music while remembering his introduction to the classics, and all the music has helped him with. The last paragraph is just perfect. What a beautiful place to leave this story.
I remember hearing my first Beethoven Symphony at the Berlin Philharmonie - I was overwhelmed. I don't know enough about classics to be able to appreciate them intellectually, but it was such an emotional experience, deeply moving.
Thank you also for the historic note (and the rest of the notes - it helped a little to ease this reader out of your universe). All of you have done such a fantastic job of merging characters and story lines of your different universes together seemingly seemlessly. It has resulted in an epic which has drawn me in, made me emotionally engage (sometimes maybe too much) with your characters, suffer and rejoice with them, try to solve mysteries. Thank you for this incredible journey.
And even if it might make me look greedy - I would love to read more of this, see where you might take it next...

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PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:40 am

I'm so glad you enjoyed the ride Stephan3ie!  Your comments and suggestions throughout have been very helpful and I'm going to miss reading them just as much as you're going to miss reading the chapters!  I think the third business that Heyes was getting involved with is simply helping to rehabilitate ex-cons.  So  he has the detective agency, the breeding program and the rehab program all wrapped up in one interesting package.

I'm sure I'll be writing more from this universe in the mode of monthly challenges etc., but I am also working on a forth installment to pick up where this story leaves off.  It may be of a different nature than the previous three, focusing more on family life than any kind of mystery or trauma to get through.  Still, I can't say for sure as I've just gotten started on it.  The way my stories take off on their own, who knows where it is going to go.

Thank you for your loyalty.  I'll keep in mind your request for outlaws putting on a show.  That could be a fun challenge!
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:02 am

I am eagerly looking forward to anything new.

And I just realise I have forgotten to ask about one more thing:
Fannie's introduction to Jesse (and the rest of the family). After all, she is so much more than just Sally's new "toy". She is part of what Jesse sent Heyes out to find, was the foundation brood mare for the Second Chance, so there must be a missing scene that for some reason has escaped from one of the last chapters. (hint, hint, *hopeful grin*, pretty pleeeeeeeaaaase)
And maybe there is another scene where Heyes and Sally are presented with Fannie's papers? It was mentioned somewhere that Fannie had been accepted as a papered mare if I am not mistaken.
And then of course Heyes would have had a little chat with his daughter about how special her new horse is... 
I am sure these scenes have just for some reason managed to cut themselves out of the posted story?  whistle 

Maybe if at some point you feel inclined to update the chapters, they could be included?

I hope I am not too demanding, but I really got so invested in your stories...

And thank you for clearing up the 3rd business. Rehab program. Ok, that makes sense. It reminded me a little bit of an animal documentary show called "Pitbulls and Parolees". A lady who has devoted her life to rescuing pitbulls needed helpers and found it difficult to find staff. So she developed this program where she would take in parolees, teach them how to care for the dogs and train them, giving the men a chance to turn their lives around.
I also saw a documentary about prison inmates who were taught how to gently "break" mustangs to saddle and bridle, using techniques somewhat similar to Monty Roberts (and what you had Josh do). Apparently working with animals can be extremely helpful for some inmates, not only to learn a new skill which might be useful after prison, but also because of what animals give back to humans.
So your idea of having suitable ex-cons helping with the horses does sound like an excellent idea.

_________________
"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen   Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:06 pm

Yes, I saw those shows too and they were very insightful.  We'll keep in mind your other suggestions for 'missing scenes'.  We could go on and on forever writing extra scenes for this trilogy so there certainly isn't any excuses for having nothing to write about!
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Is About To Change. Chapter sixteen
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